MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – More than two minutes into stoppage time, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling slid across the field and puffed his chest to the crowd, roaring in elation. Tottenham players collapsed to the turf, some flat on their backs, forlorn and heartbroken.
From the brink of Champions League elimination, Manchester City was celebrating its passage to the semifinals.
Not for long.
As City manager Pep Guardiola was leaping on the touchline, Turkish referee Cueneyt Cakir was receiving updates in his ear from the video assistant referee checking replays.
The stadium soon became hushed until the big screen flashed: “No goal. VAR. Offside.”
Guardiola threw his head in his hands, but there was nothing to argue about.
When Christian Eriksen’s misplaced back-pass deflected off Bernardo Silva into the path of Sergio Agueero, the City striker was offside before setting up Sterling in the penalty area.
“It’s cruel,” Guardiola said.
There would be no eighth goal on this breathtaking night of epic drama. Tottenham advanced on away goals following Wednesday’s 4-3 loss that left the teams tied 4-4 on aggregate.
City’s quadruple dreams were extinguished. Guardiola, a Champions League-winning coach with Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, failed to reach the semifinals for the sixth straight time, his third with City after three misses with Bayern Munich.
Instead, Tottenham reached its first European Cup semifinal in 57 years and will play Ajax. Liverpool, meanwhile, will meet Barcelona in the other semifinal, giving England multiple clubs in the semifinals for the first time since Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in 2009.
Tottenham advanced thanks to Fernando Llorente’s hip, which nudged the ball into the net in the 73rd minute for a goal that survived a VAR review for possible handball. It was the last goal of a night that will be long remembered by clubs that lived in the shadows of larger rivals in their own cities.
“That is why we love football, we feel the passion,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said.” We enjoy watching football, anything can happen.
“Today we showed our great character, great personality. To score three goals against Manchester City is not easy.”
Not when top scorer Harry Kane was out due to injury. Not when the midfield options were so depleted that an injury to Moussa Sissoko before halftime forced Pochettino to bring on out-of-favor center forward Llorente.
And Tottenham will play the first leg against Ajax without Son Heung-min — Kane’s understudy who scored the valuable first-leg goal last week. Son scored Tottenham’s first two goals at Etihad Stadium, then picked up a booking for a foul on Kevin De Bruyne that earned him a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
The South Korean showed just how influential he is for Tottenham in a start unlike anything seen before in the Champions League.
Four goals in the opening 11 minutes. The fifth in the 21st minute, after five shots on target.
“The first 10 minutes of this game and the last five was fairytale stuff,” Eriksen said.
Sterling put City ahead in just the fourth minute. Son then netted twice to put City in a position where it had to score three more goals to advance.
City did just that to take a 4-2 lead, only for Llorente — and the VAR — to have the last say.
“It was a very tough game, a very crazy game,” Son said. “Sometimes you are annoyed with VAR but today it is a case of, ‘Thank you and good decision.’ “
Sterling got the action started when he received the ball from De Bruyne and evaded Kieran Trippier before bending the ball into the corner past Hugo Lloris.
Within three minutes, Tottenham regained its aggregate advantage after Aymeric Laporte’s clearance from Lucas Moura’s through ball set up Son to level on the night.
Laporte was again at fault when he gave the ball away in the 10th on the halfway line, setting Moura free to set up Son to put Tottenham 2-1 up.
Not for long. Barely a minute.
Silva was left in space on the right flank to collect the ball and poke it through Danny Rose’s legs and into the net in the 21st.
“I looked at Pep,” Pochettino recalled, “and we said, ‘Unbelievable!’ “
After that dizzying spell, there was a full 10 minutes before the ball ended up in the net again.
A backheel from Silva set up De Bruyne, who crossed for Sterling to slide in at the back post.
City 3, Tottenham 2. Five goals in 21 minutes, but with Tottenham still going through thanks to Son’s first-leg goal.
Liverpool 4, Porto 1
In Porto, Portugal, for the second year in a row, Porto had no answer to Liverpool’s attacking trio of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
A year after the forwards scored all goals in a 5-0 rout of the Portuguese champions in the round of 16, the trio combined again to lead Liverpool back to the semifinals.
They netted a goal each in a comfortable 4-1 win over Porto, with Virgil van Dijk also scoring as Liverpool advanced 6-1 on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-0 at home.
Liverpool, which lost in the final last season, will now face Barcelona, which eliminated Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate on Tuesday.
Mané had a hat trick at the Estádio do Dragão last season, with Salah and Firmino adding a goal each. The Senegalese player led the way again this time, opening the scoring with a 26th-minute goal that was confirmed by video review after being initially disallowed for offside.
Porto had started well and showed signs it might be able to reverse the first-leg deficit, but Liverpool took control after Mané’s goal and cruised to victory.