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Champions League 2018-19: The greatest tournament ever?

Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid to bring to an end a sensational Champions League season.

With dramatic comebacks, an all-English final, a wonderful Ajax team and some unlikely heroes, it is a season which will live long in the memory.

BBC Sport looks at some of the season’s highlights, including some brilliant pictures from earlier rounds.

There had been so many great comebacks in the previous couple of Champions League seasons that it would be easy to become numb to the very concept.

But this season’s knockout games raised the bar, with Ajax, Manchester United and Juventus improbably turning around first-leg deficits, and then Liverpool and Spurs famously fighting back to reach the final.

First of all in the last 16, Ajax overturned a 2-1 first-leg defeat at home to champions Real Madrid to win 4-1 at the Bernabeu and 5-3 on aggregate.

It was a result that sent shockwaves through Europe, ending Real’s 1,011-day reign as European champions and costing Santiago Solari his job.

The following day, Manchester United caused another shock. They lost 2-0 to Paris St-Germain in the first leg at Old Trafford and looked destined for a European exit.

At that stage, statisticians Gracenote calculated United had a 5% chance of progressing – which was better than Ajax’s 4% a day earlier.

They led 2-1 going into injury-time but were still heading out until a conversional handball decision – awarded in injury-time after a pitchside video review by the referee – gave Marcus Rashford the chance to score from the spot.

The next week it was the turn of Juventus to pull off an unlikely result, after they lost 2-0 to Atletico Madrid – who host this year’s final – in their first leg in Spain.

Further progress in the competition looked a long shot in the return tie against Diego Simeone’s legendary defence, but Cristiano Ronaldo did what he does best, scoring a hat-trick that included an 86th-minute penalty, to knock Atleti out.

But then came the semis, and two nights of football that will live with many fans forever.

Liverpool were given a 4% chance of going through after losing 3-0 at the Nou Camp.

But Divock Origi (more on him later) and Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice each to send the Reds through on another famous Anfield night.

That was, remarkably, not even the most dramatic English comeback of the week.

Only 24 hours later, Tottenham did in 35 minutes what Liverpool had 90 to do, as Lucas Moura scored a second-half hat-trick, including a 96th-minute winner, in Amsterdam to knock out Ajax on away goals.

In fact, half of the 14 knockout ties this season have been won by a team given less than a one in three chance of progress after the first leg by Gracenote.

Ajax capture Europe’s hearts, Spurs come back from the brink again and again

Although their run ended in heartbreaking style at the semi-final stage, Ajax were arguably the team of the tournament.

The Dutch side reached the last four for the first time since 1997 with a squad mostly full of extraordinary young talents, alongside Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind, relatively unheralded recruits from the Premier League who cost a combined £24m.

After ending Real’s European reign in the last 16, they did the same to Ronaldo’s run of Champions League success when they knocked out his Juventus team in the quarter-finals.

Even more remarkable was the fact they had to come through three rounds of qualifiers to even make the group stages, with a Champions League campaign that ran from July 2018 to May 2019.

The sad thing for Ajax fans – and football romantics – is that this team will not get another crack at the Champions League next season.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong has agreed to join Barcelona for £65m, with 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt and Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech among the others expected to go.

Spurs’ run to the final is one that not too many people expected. The club have only won one trophy this millennium – the 2008 League Cup – and have not signed a player since January 2018.

They were on the verge of elimination five times this season, but somehow kept progressing.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were 12 minutes away from going out in the fourth group game, until Harry Kane’s late double against PSV kept them in the race.

Then they were 10 minutes away from elimination in the next game until Christian Eriksen’s late winner against Inter Milan.

They left it even later in the final group game, with Lucas Moura’s 85th-minute equaliser against Barcelona taking them into the last 16.