In the end, it was worth the wait.
Tottenham Hotspur finally opened its shiny new $1.3 billion stadium amid glorious fanfare Wednesday, by hosting Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
For the 59,215 packed inside on opening night, the experience was made all the more memorable by a 2-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen.
For the fans and for the players, this was a night to remember.
“It’s just amazing,” Son told Sky Sports. “What an unbelievable stadium. The noise was just so loud.
“To score the first goal at this stadium … I just want to say to thank you to my teammates and the fans.
“White Hart Lane is our history but the new stadium … I can’t believe it. To play in it is an amazing feeling. It’s a bit different from Wembley. Wembley was not our home.”
This was some homecoming for the Spurs, which walked onto the field to the sound of a brass band playing the club’s “Glory, Glory, Tottenham Hotspur” anthem, followed by a spectacular firework display.
Initially scheduled to open at the start of the 2018/19 season, the 62,026-seat venue had endured issues with “critical safety systems” forcing the team to continue playing games at its temporary home of Wembley Stadium.
But better late than never.
Cashless sports venue
Gone is the old White Hart Lane, Tottenham’s spiritual home but in its place is a stadium that may well have revolutionized the sport, not just in the UK but across Europe.
The arena is the country’s first entirely cashless sports venue, while the two big screens are set to be the largest in western Europe. The ground also boasts the UK’s biggest single-tier stand, holding 17,500 people.
A retractable artificial surface that slides across the pitch is a nod to Tottenham’s hopes of ultimately hosting the NFL’s Super Bowl and its own London-based franchise.
“I genuinely believe it’s the best stadium in the world,” Populous architect Christopher Lee told CNN Sport. “It creates great spaces and great experiences. It’s designed like a concert hall and is all about noise and reverberation sound.”
For Tottenham supporters, this day has been one they have been dreaming of after 23 months away from home.
Wembley may be the home of English football, but it is not home for those who live and breathe Tottenham. The frustration over the delays in the club moving back to north London has been palpable.
As weeks became months, supporters began to vote with their feet, staying away from games as disaffection with Wembley grew.
Fortunately, that is no longer a problem. Tottenham is home, and it’s not just a home, it’s one of the most beautiful homes in European football.
Any concerns that the new modern structure would crush any semblance of atmosphere or leave supporters too far away from the field appear unfounded.
Late, it might be, but few other clubs can match Tottenham for its facilities both here, nor at its training base in Enfield.
Yet, with a brand new stadium comes new pressures of its own. Tottenham, chasing a place in next season’s Champions League, has struggled of late, picking up just a solitary point from its previous five games.
But here, backed by a raucous home crowd, Tottenham laid siege to the Palace goal and finally made the breakthrough when South Korea star Son fired home 10 minutes after the interval.
No sooner than the ball had hit the back of the net, bedlam ensued. As Son was mobbed by his teammates, those in the stands were on their feet, the roar from the stand behind the goal reverberating across the stadium, almost making the space-like structure take off.
Buoyed by the goal, Spurs continued to push forward and Eriksen sealed the win 10 minutes from time, coolly finishing from inside the penalty area after good work by Harry Kane.
With victory assured, the party could really start, a party that for Tottenham fans, and indeed its coach, Mauricio Pochettino, was long overdue.
“I think this type of moment will stay in your mind and memories,” Pochettino told reporters after the game.
“It was one of the best moments of my life.”
While Tottenham’s new stadium stole the show, it was Manchester City that stole a march on title rival Liverpool with a 2-0 win over Cardiff.
City, which now leads the Premier League by a point with six games to go, eased past Cardiff, thanks to goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane.
The pressure is now back on Liverpool, which can reclaim top spot on Friday when it travels to Southampton. City, meanwhile, will head to Wembley this weekend for an FA Cup semifinal clash with Brighton.
Nick Friend contributed to this report.