MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – After a surprising meeting at Etihad Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with away goals after a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday.
The Spurs, who won the first match 1-0 and progressed after a 4-4 draw in total, will play against Ajax Amsterdam in the final against Liverpool or Barcelona after one of the most remarkable matches in the history of the competition.
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino predicted the meeting with the exciting young Dutch team would be an "open and exciting game," but it will take something to offer more entertainment than this uninterrupted wave of drama and excitement.
He started manically with four goals in the opening 11 minutes of the game. It was an exciting spectacle until the dramatic end, when City had an interruption goal from Raheem Sterling, who would have been eliminated by impediment after a review of the VAR.
City fans celebrated what appeared to be the goal that led to the last four, before the replay confirmed that Sergio Aguero was impeded in the accumulation.
It was a perfect example of the benefits of using the technology, but it was also difficult for Pep Guardiola's team, which was the strongest in the 90 minutes.
"It's cruel, but it's what it is and we have to accept it," said Guardiola, whose dream of winning four titles this season is over.
His colleague, Pochettino, who was without his top scorer Harry Kane, said his team showed all of his character.
"My players are heroes. We made history," said the Argentine, whose team reaches the last four for the first time since the creation of the Champions League and since 1962 in the semifinals of the European Cup.
The championship exploded in the fourth minute when Sterling put City ahead, taking Kevin De Bruyne's ball on the left flank and then cutting to the right before hitting Hugo Lloris with a nice shot in the far corner.
Three minutes later, the Spurs drew level as City defender Aymeric Laporte fell to the feet of Son Heung-min, who kicked the ball out of the City Edeeper area.
Laporte was also to blame for Spurs' second goal in the 10th minute when he gave the ball to Lucas Moura, Brazilian Christian Eriksen, who found Son, the brilliant South Korean to finish in superb form in the far corner.
There was no respite when City responded immediately, while Aguero fed Bernardo Silva and the Portuguese left-wing shot off Danny Rose and beat Lloris, upside-down, to make it 2-2 in the evening.
The dangerous Sterling attacked again in the 21st minute to equalize, with a low kick in the cross of De Bruyne who crossed the line of goal.
Aguero's fierce 59th-minute effort put City ahead – the Argentinian kicked the ball at Lloris's post after a magnificent penalty kick and De Bruyne's pass.
City, who came out at the same stadium for Liverpool last season, was impressed in the 73rd minute of the second half when substitute Fernando Llorente equalized in a corner from Kieran Trippier to restore the London side's advantage with goals away from home.
With officials unsure whether the ball hit the Spaniard's hand or rolled from his hip in the mouth of the goal, the VAR was put into action and the goal was the Spurs – a decision that Guardiola questioned after the game.
Then came the video torture from stoppage time to support at home – Aguero hit the right flank and made a low cross for Sterling to score home what would have been his hat-trick.
The VAR call was correct and the Premier League champions were out – to the delight of Pochettino and his players who frantically celebrated in front of Spurs' support on the road.
"If we have something to describe this team, we always have the same spirit, ideas and philosophy, and that's the most important thing," said Pochettino. "They deserve a lot of praise and I'm very happy because the effort is enormous. .
Now the pair will meet again on Saturday at the same Premier League venue, with plenty at stake for both teams.
It should be another classic, but it's hard to see how it could be as engaging as this.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)