Wow. What a ride the last 2 nights have been! I’m exhausted after 2 incredible Champions League semi finals which both delivered a helter skeleton of emotions for fans all around the world.
Liverpool’s comeback against a Barcelona team including the greatest player that’s ever lived (in my opinion) plus 2 South American ex-players sold for over £200 million will be etched on the memory for years to come, just like that 2005 night in Istanbul.
This was better than that glorious Turkish adventure in many ways but with one major difference because you can never under estimate the power of Anfield. Have you ever seen opposition players of that quality freeze like 4 year olds performing at their first school concert? We are talking about, golden boot winners, Euro winners, World Cup winners who have played at the very highest level yet when the Kop started their famous roar you could literally see and feel the energy sapping from them, their faces a mask of fear knowing they were on the receiving end of the biggest turnaround in semi final history in the biggest club competition in the world.
Little did we know when the final whistle sounded at Anfield and those wild celebrations began that Tottenham would equal Liverpool’s achievement in an arguably more stunning way but this time not on home turf but by overturning a 3 goal deficit in the cauldron of the Amsterdam Arena against a young and fearless Ajax side that has made The world fall in love with Dutch football all over again.
Not since Cruyff in the 70’s (so good they named the aforementioned stadium after him) and the Ajax dream team of the 90’s that included so much talent has the world been spellbound by a group of youngsters playing total football and after a fantastic 2nd goal in front of their adoring home crowd it was time for them to take their foot off the gas and sit back a little…..but football is a fickle mistress as Amsterdam’s exasperation became North London’s ecstasy.
The young and fearless suddenly became the scared and inexperienced as Tottenham launched a comeback that in many ways was more thrilling than the previous nights exploits. Spurs battered their younger opponents in the 2nd half and when a long, hopeful ball was punted upfield in the last few seconds of the game, Lucas Moura managed to be that split second quicker and wrap his favourite left foot around the ball to send Spurs to their first ever Champions League final.
The small margins in sport had played their crucial part yet again so on 01 June the fans of 2 English Premier League clubs will descend on the amazing city of Madrid in a footballing fiesta that will be watched by hundreds and hundreds of millions around the world.
Back in November when I was talking to some mates about the 2019 Final being in Madrid I checked the flights on a whim and saw that they were 40 euros return for the weekend so decided to book them for myself and my football mad youngest son (who’s a Man City fan!) so we could be a part of the story whoever qualified. He was obviously praying that Citeh would get there but I was just hoping for any English team so we could enjoy the weekend with a few fellow countrymen and women in the Madrid sunshine.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t but my cheap flights and budget hotel that cost a grand total of 140 euros per person now seem like a great investment to be a part of footballing history. Getting match tickets to the big games is always a challenge (this isn’t my first rodeo) and my contacts have always said that it was 50/50 depending on who got to the final so let’s see what comes up over the coming weeks but whatever happens we will be at the stadium on final day soaking up the atmosphere that sporting occasions like this can deliver.
As a proud Englishman living in the host country I’m just hoping for a final that showcases the very best of the Premier League and as a Derby County fan I can remain strictly neutral although I’ve always held a great affection for one of the sides but I can honestly say……good luck to both teams and may the best team win.