Almanac Soccer – Come On You Spurs!

Champions League Quarter-Final: Tottenham v Manchester City

Marcus Holt


I fell in love with Tottenham Hotspur when I was 11 years old. I dreamt of seeing them win the FA Cup at Wembley. In 1981 I watched the Final against Manchester City on TV at my cousin’s place in Nathalia, (home of the Purps), with frazzled nerves and badly-bitten fingernails as Spurs survived to force a draw. Very early the following Thursday morning Tottenham won the replay thanks to a classic Ricardo Villa wonder goal. I was ecstatic, so when Spurs made the Final again the following year I bit the bullet of my dream, sold everything I owned and bought a one-way ticket to London, determined to be there in person this time. That’s a story for another time.


This morning I revisited “Tottenham v Manchester City”, in the second leg of the European Champions League Quarter-Final, played in Manchester.


Spurs had a 1-0 lead from the first leg, played at their stunning new stadium a week ago. The two heroes were South Korean, Heung-Min Son who scored the only goal, and Hugo Lloris, the French World Cup winning goalkeeper and captain, who saved a penalty from Sergio Aguero, his third penalty save in a row no less!


Despite holding a lead, no-one expected Spurs to win against one of the best teams in the world. City’s squad cost around 700 million pounds to assemble and are managed by Pep Guardiola, reputed to be the best soccer coach in the world. Spurs, on the other hand, are fighting out of their weight division on a “shoe-string” budget. They haven’t added a player to the squad in over a year, unheard of in the Premier League. Tottenham’s charismatic manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has galvanised the team but as yet has not delivered any silverware. City has taken over from famous rivals, Manchester United, to become England’s best team and have won the Premier League three times in the last eight years. Spurs haven’t won the league since 1961, the year I was born.


The game kicked off at 5.00 this morning but as luck would have it, I started work at 5:15! Unable to live-stream it, I turned to the radio on the drive to work but Macquarie switched from BBC to local feed at 5:00 o’clock!


Plan C. I connected to the Champions League app and blue-toothed it to the car stereo just in time to hear Raheem Stirling score City’s first goal after three minutes, wiping out Tottenham’s hard-won advantage. My heart sank and not for the last time. The expected City onslaught did not eventuate however but was immediately interrupted in the most stunning fashion when Heung-Min Son scored not once but twice in three minutes: Tottenham 2 Man City 1. I was going crazy in the car, the empty city streets of Geelong echoed with a series of seemingly unprovoked car horn blasts in celebration. For the uninitiated, it’s important to point out that in Champions League games, if the game is drawn, away goals count double. Spurs were effectively leading 5-1 on aggregate by the 8-minute mark and heading for the semi-final.


Not so fast!


Two things happened.


First, the audio feed on the app dropped out and would return only for a couple of 30-second bursts for the remainder of the game.


Second, I arrived at work. By the time I got underway driving a #1 bus from Geelong station to Deakin Uni, Man City had equalised! The game was


2-2 and Spurs were wobbling. I should mention here that Tottenham was playing without star striker Harry Kane who was badly injured in the first leg. With no audio, I was reduced to relying on message alerts on the phone and the news got worse, City scored again, 3-2 to them after 21 minutes! Thanks to the away goals rule we weren’t dead but the signs were bad. It had been a frantic, pulsating, wild and crazy first half and I was a nervous wreck.


I was right to be worried because, after half-time, it got worse! City scored again. They not only lead the game 4-2 but they also now led the tie on aggregate.


The only thing that could save Spurs was scoring another away goal.


Can you hear the drums Fernando?  A new Tottenham hero arose, Fernando Llorente, who bundled the ball into the net from a corner off his hip! Unorthodox but effective! Except the ref called for a VAR (Video Assisted Referee) review to check whether the ball had come off his arm. After a couple of agonizing minutes he pointed to the centre circle, the goal stood. The passengers on the bus gave me some puzzled looks as I celebrated the alert that Spurs were back in front on aggregate! Less than 10 minutes to go. Hang on Spurs! Don’t blow it now!


Third minute of added time.


Step up Raheem Sterling who seized on an error from Christian Eriksen and scored his third goal!


City led 5-3.


City led the tie.


City were through to the semi-final!


For all Tottenham’s heroics, they were beaten and out of the Champions League…


Spurs were finally dead and buried!


I swore.


Then the pre-Easter miracle happened!


Up flashed “VAR Review” on my screen!


Apparently, they were checking whether Aguero was offside!


My heart leapt.


A tiny flicker of hope returned!


I waited


And waited


And then, “Goal disallowed” flashed onto my screen!!!!!


Spurs were alive!


Tottenham had risen from defeat, they were back in the lead!


Two more agonizing minutes to survive and then came ECSTASY!


The final whistle.


Final game score: Manchester City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 3


Final aggregate score: Man City 4 Tottenham 4


Away goals score: City 4  Spurs 7!


Spurs had won! Knocked out “The best team in the world”.


Spurs were through to the semi-final of the Champions League for the first time!


I’ve been buzzing all day! I’ve watched the highlights three times! I’ve texted my Spurs-mad mate. I’ve read all the posts on Facebook. I still can’t quite believe it! But Easter is a time for faith and belief. Come On You Spurs.



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About Marcus Holt

Born in 61, alive in 63, first broken heart in 67, followed by 89, 92, 94, 95. There because of a minor miracle in 07. Back in 09 which cost me my job. Shared 11 with my youngest son. Shared 22 with my eldest. In my other life, late career change teacher, father of 4, Grandfather of 3 so far.




  2. Great stuff Marcus. Spurs are the perpetual Cinderella story but they have done wonders under Pochettino. ABB. (Anyone But Barcelona).

  3. I missed this match, but watched the highlights.
    Just extraordinary drama, Marcus !!

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