Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino saluted his “heroes” after his side sealed a stunning 4-4 away-goals win at Manchester City to reach the last four of the Champions League.
Two decisions by the Video Assisted Referee proved decisive.
Raheem Sterling was denied a dramatic late winner as Tottenham ended City’s quadruple quest at the Etihad Stadium.
Sterling thought he had completed a stunning hat-trick in the last few moments of a pulsating quarter-final but VAR intervened and Spurs went through to the semi-finals despite a 4-3 defeat on the night. Sergio Aguero was adjudged to have strayed offside in the build-up, deflating City and meaning that Spurs would prevail with the score 4-4 on aggregate.
It meant a bundled Fernando Llorente goal, also awarded after the referee consulted VAR, proved decisive for Spurs.
“It was unbelievable – the way it finished. I am so happy, so proud. My players are heroes to be here. I am so happy for them, so happy for the fans,” said Pochettino.
Pochettino, whose side now meet Ajax in the semi-finals, added: “In a moment many things happened in your head and the disappointment was massive, but they changed the decision.
“That is why we love football. We showed great character and great personality it was an unbelievable game.”
Tottenham have now reached the semi-finals of the Champions League/European Cup for the second time in their history, also doing so in 1961-62 under Bill Nicholson.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min, who gave the visitors a surprise early lead with two goals in three minutes after Sterling’s opener, said it was an unforgettable game.
However, the South Korean will miss the first leg of the semi-final after picking up a yellow card in Manchester.
“I have never seen something like this,” said Son. “It was tough and crazy but we are very proud of our team-mates. It was madness.”
Midfielder Christian Eriksen felt he “must be one of the luckiest guys on the planet” after Sterling’s late goal was ruled out after the Dane’s misplaced pass gave possession away.
“I thought it was over,” said Eriksen.
“Thank god the ref gave offside.”
Despite being eliminated, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has won 10 Champions League games against English sides, the most of any manager in the competition’s history.
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.”
On Sterling’s goal that was ruled out: “I watched the action and the people from above decided it was offside.
“We missed a penalty in the first leg but I am so proud of the players and the fans.”
He added: “We created a lot of chances against a tough team.
“We made a mistake for the first two goals.
“But we were honest in the way we played. We tried until the end.
“What we’ve done in these two seasons is incredible,” Guardiola added.
It is a tribute to the resilience of this squad – and Pochettino’s management of his resources – that they not only achieved victory but now stand only two games away from their first Champions League final.
They survived an all-out assault from City to achieve it – how they deserved those celebrations.
The sides must now do it all over again. City entertain Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday in the Premier League (12:30).