NYON: One of the most thrilling of Champions League ties saw Manchester City’s quadruple dream ended despite a 4-3 win over Tottenham Hotspur in their quarter-final second leg.
Spurs, who had won only 1-0 in London, took the tie on the away goals rule after a 4-4 aggregate draw in which VAR decisions played a crucial role – most notably in ruling out what would have been a City winner by Raheem Sterling in stoppage time.
Tottenham, semi-finalists previously only in the original Champions Cup in 1962, will play Ajax Amsterdam – Christian Eriksen’s old club – for a place in the trophy showdown in Madrid.
A goal by Fernando Llorente, bundled in off his elbow then hip from a corner and confirmed by VAR 17 minutes from time, gave Mauricio Pochettino’s side the victory which ended Pep Guardiola’s quest for a historic quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
City even thought they had won it in stoppage time only for a goal which would have also meant a hat-trick for Raheem Sterling being ruled out for offside by VAR.
Spurs were protecting a 1-0 lead from the first leg but an opening 21 minutes of chaotic brilliance saw City lead 3-2 on the night as both teams exchanged goals at will.
Sterling lit the blue touchpaper on a thunderous atmosphere when he curled in a precision finish from the edge of the area after only four minutes, but Spurs responded with a double from Son Heung-min as he took advantage of errors by Aymeric Laporte.
Bernardo Silva put City level on the night with a shot that deflected past Hugo Lloris then Sterling arrived on the end of the outstanding Kevin de Bruyne’s cross to score at the far post.
This left City 3-2 ahead and needing one more goal in the second half to avoid a domestic repeat of last season’s quarter-finals defeat by Liverpool.
They appeared on course when Sergio Aguero thumped home their fourth after De Bruyne sliced Spurs open before Llorente, on as a first-half substitute for injured Moussa Sissoko, claimed Spurs’ third goal which was approved by a VAR check for handball by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.
In one last extraordinary twist, City thought they had snatched victory and Sterling a hat-trick but emotions switched instantly as VAR had the final word and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.
City manager Pep Guardiola said: “It is cruel but it is what it is and we have to accept it. I am so proud of the players and the fans. I have never heard noise like that since I have been in Manchester but football is unpredictable.”
“Unfortunately, it was a bad end for us so congratulations to Tottenham and good luck for the semi-finals. I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not. Today is tough and tomorrow will be tough too but the day after we will be ready.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said: “It was unbelievable – the way it finished. I am so happy, so proud. My players are heroes to be here. “In a moment many things happened in your head, the disappointment was massive but they changed the decision.
“That is why we love football. Today we showed great character and great personality it was an unbelievable game.”
Liverpool march on
The night’s other tie saw Liverpool progress through comfortably in Portugal after a 4-1 win over Porto added up to 6-1 aggregate triumph.
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk netted for the Premier League leaders after they had held off the ambitions of Porto in the first half and then scored three times in the final half an hour.
It was not a repeat of the 5-0 rout Liverpool enjoyed in the Estadao Dragao 14 months ago but, at the final whistle, the effect was just the same as Jurgen Klopp’s side advanced with the minimum of fuss.
Quarter-finals, 2nd legs: TUE: Barcelona 3, Man. Utd 0 (4-0 agg); Juventus 1, Ajax 2 (2-3 agg). WED: Porto 1, Liverpool 4 (1-6 agg); Man. City 4, Tottenham 3 (4-4 agg, Tottenham on away goals).