Heung-Min Son wiped his brow after a whirlwind night at the Etihad and admitted: “I’ve never had a game like this!”
Having fired us ahead in the first leg of our Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City last week, the South Korean star saw Raheem Sterling strike early for City in Wednesday’s return before once again taking centre stage with two quick-fire goals – the second one a peach of a curler from just inside the box – to complete an aggregate hat-trick and leave City needing to score three to progress.
As it happened, that didn’t even begin to tell the story of one of the craziest European nights in our history!
City did indeed score the required three to lead 4-2 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate as they took control of the tie, only for Fernando Llorente to stun the home faithful with an overall equaliser with 17 minutes of normal time left. We had to wait for VAR to confirm the goal before a second, dramatic VAR intervention in injury time when City thought they’d nicked it through Raheem Sterling, only for the replays to prove that Sergio Aguero was off-side in the build-up.
No goal, City shell-shocked and, incredibly, a place in the Champions League semi-finals for us for the first time ever thanks to the away goals rule!
“It feels amazing! It was a crazy game, I’ve never had a game like this,” said Sonny. “It was very good to watch and to enjoy… I don’t know, it’s difficult to explain. For the players, it was very good character that we showed.
“I’m very proud of this team and it feels great with this team to be in the semi-finals. For me, it’s the first time (in the semi-finals), for the team it’s the first time as well and that’s why I’m very proud of this group, proud of my team-mates, proud of everything.
“It felt really, really good to score the two early goals – I’m really grateful to score such important goals and I’m really grateful for every single goal and every single moment.
“It was a crazy game but it’s sometimes football… it can change so quickly but the players did very very well. I can’t say anything more, I’m very proud, happy – an amazing night!”
Unfortunately, Sonny’s evening was slightly tainted by the knowledge that he’ll miss the first leg of the semi-final against Ajax after picking up a yellow card for a foul in the opening exchanges of a tough second half. Already on one booking in the competition, his second led to a one-game ban but, in a classy gesture from a renowned team player, he backed his colleagues to win the game in his absence.
“Of course, I was very sad and am still sad but I’m a very positive guy,” he said. “I think the players can do it well without me, the players are ready and it should be enjoyable like always. Hopefully we will have a great result.”
The all-action attacker was also keen to acknowledge our travelling fans, who continued their delirious celebrations solidly for some 20 minutes in the away end after the full-time whistle at the Etihad: “I just want to say we’re grateful for the support from the fans. They travelled to Manchester to support us from the start to the end of the game. They gave us a little bit more of a boost and I think we are happy now!”