Fernando Llorente wrote his name into Tottenham Hotspurs folklore with the goal that took his club into the Champions League semi-finals at Manchester City on Wednesday – and declared the feeling to be right up there with his emotions when he won the World Cup.
Concise News reports that on as a first-half replacement for the injured Moussa Sissoko, the centre-forward saw Spurs go 4-2 down on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, just before the hour mark to leave the London club chasing the tie for the first time over the two legs.
City were thrusting forward and hardly allowing Spurs a sniff at their goal as they looked to put the quarter-final out of our reach. But when Kieran Trippier’s corner skimmed off the top of Kyle Walker’s head in the 73rd minute, the veteran Spain international was there when it mattered to convert a rare chance at the near post.
Cue scenes of wild celebrations in front of the away fans as Spurs equalised overall and tipped the tie back in their favour on away goals.
Then, drama. A prolonged VAR check for a potential hand-ball against Fernando ensued, but the match officials deem the goal to have been legal and the celebrations began again.
VAR would intervene once more when Raheem Sterling looked to have nicked it for City right at the end, but Sergio Aguero was ruled offside in the build-up and the atmosphere in the stadium changed with the flip of a switch as the home players and fans realised the goal had been disallowed and Spurs would be going through after all.
What a story and what a moment for Llorente, who was bouncing up and down with manager Mauricio Pochettino as the squad and staff partied in front of the travelling supporters afterwards.
“What a night, unbelievable! It’s one of the best moments in my career,” the striker tells Spurs TV. “It’s true that I’ve lived unbelievable moments like winning the World Cup, winning the European Championship, winning the Europa League (with Sevilla) and winning the leagues in Italy (with Juventus) but this one is history. To do this with an unbelievable team like Tottenham and be for the first time in the semi-finals of the Champions League with these team-mates is crazy. I believe in them and I think we can make history.”
On the timing of his goal, Fernando says: “It was important because it was the first moment we were out but I always believe in me and my opportunities and most important is to say thank you to all the fans because they are very important for us and now we have to keep going with this dream.
“The second half was very difficult because they were playing very well, moving the ball very quick and it was difficult to arrive one time to the goal. City have unbelievable players, they have two seconds to think and to do something with the ball – it’s really difficult to stop them.
“I’m very proud because it’s not easy coming into this unbelievable game with a lot of pressure and in a difficult moment as well, but like I said I always believe in me, in my opportunities and this is what I do. Always I will try to do my best and to be ready for every moment the gaffer needs me.”
Relishing the post-match delirium, Fernando adds: “It was a very special moment to celebrate the victory with all my team-mates, with the gaffer, with everyone in the team and now we have to enjoy this moment because it’s history. Thank you to the fans. We have to enjoy it because this is an unbelievable moment and we have to continue.”