LONDON. – History was made on Thursday night as FOUR English Premier League football teams progressed to Europe’s two major finals for the first time ever.
Arsenal and Chelsea joined Liverpool and Tottenham in booking their places in the season-ending showdowns, as English teams dominated the continent in 2018-19.
Liverpool and Tottenham had produced thrilling comebacks earlier this week as they prepare to meet in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1. Then Arsenal and Chelsea made it through to the Europa League showpiece after battling past Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively.
The two London clubs will now play each other for Europe’s second-tier title in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 29.
Thursday night’s heroics capped what is arguably one of the greatest-ever weeks for English teams in Europe.
Liverpool got the party started by storming to a 4-0 win over Barcelona at Anfield, without their two star men – Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Divock Origi and substitute Georginio Wijnaldum scored two apiece as a stunned Barca could only watch on as the Reds ran riot on Merseyside in overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit.
Klopp went on to describe his players as “f***ing giants” – as celebrations erupted across the city.
Just 24 hours later, Spurs were at it as Lucas Moura scored a sublime hat-trick, including a 95th-minute winner to book their place in the Champions League final.
Mauricio Pochettino and Co had slumped to a 1-0 loss in London – and fell further behind as Ajax opened up a 2-0 first-half lead in Holland.
But three goals from Moura left the youthful Dutch squad shell-shocked – and Poch tearfully calling his stars “heroes”.
The two surprise victories led to a surge in fans looking to book flights to the Spanish capital – with direct return flights jumping up to around £2 500 in some cases.
However, thrifty fans can find cheaper alternatives from both London and Liverpool to catch a glimpse of their stars going for glory.
The same is to be expected from the Gunners and the Blues as Azerbaijan braces itself for an influx of British tourists.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, the Champions League and Europa League will have English winners.
Liverpool go for their sixth-ever European Cup crown – and their first since the Miracle of Istanbul in 2005 – while Spurs aim to make it a first-ever title.
Either way it will be a first British winner of “Old Big Ears” since Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a 2011-12 penalty shootout.
In the Europa League, England will have its first winners since 2016-17 when Manchester United managed the feat – beating Ajax to the crown.
Whoever wins in the two finals, 2018-19 will have provided us with not only a thrilling Premier League title race, but champions in both major European tournaments.
Who’d have thought it, eh? – AFP