Magnificent Spurs keep cool in ill-tempered affair and show further signs of maturation in Europe’s elite competition.
- Tottenham were absolutely brilliant and came away with a famous victory thanks to the combination of a Peter Crouch goal in the 80th minute and their first clean sheet of the season away from home in the Champions League.
- Crouch’s goal, which came from a lightning-quick counter-attack led by Aaron Lennon, actually came at a time when AC Milan were having their best spell of the match.
- Make no mistake, however, this was more than a fair result. Tottenham returned to the stadium that humbled them less than four months ago and gave a clinic on how to play an away match in the Champions League.
- It was fitting that Crouch got the game’s only goal as he caused AC’s defence troubles throughout the game. In the opening ten minutes he won aerial battles against both centre backs, Mario Yepes and Alessandro Nesta.
- The home side’s gameplan against Crouch early was clearly to get goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to come out and fight for the ball knowing full well he will always get the calls against the tall striker. Such a plan worked for a while until Abbiati clattered to the ground after one challenge and banged his head. Soon after he fell to the floor once again when punching away a Lennon cross, and immediately pointed to his head and was substituted.
- Harry Redknapp had clearly done his homework on the predictable AC Milan attack. Milan have shown an incredible lack of width this season going forward and by placing Sandro and Wilson Palacios in front of the back four he shut down anything the midfield could conjure for the front men.
- With the game being much slower than a normal Premier League match it was no surprise to see Sandro play his best game in a Tottenham shirt.
- Palacios though, in particular, was absolutely magnificent and never gave Clarence Seedorf – picked as the 1 in a 4-3-1-2 – no room at all in the first half. Massimiliano Allegri withdrew Seedorf at half-time for Alexandre Pato, pushing Robinho deeper and although Robinho was better at targeting Tottenham’s weak leftside defensively, in truth, it made little difference.
- It was no coincidence that AC Milan only had two legitimate chances and they both came from short corners as Yepes saw his headers denied by the alert Heurelho Gomes.
- For Milan it was yet another disastrous display in the Champions League. At this stage last season they got destroyed 7-2 over two legs against Manchester United and a year later they were once again embarrassed on the game’s biggest stage.
- Their captain Gennaro Gattuso was a disgrace. I don’t know what he had for breakfast or what happened to him at home before he left for the stadium but he ran around like a man possessed and in the second half, in particular, looked like he wanted to fight the world. His feud with Tottenham coach Joe Jordan started during the game when they squared up to each other on the touchline and the two met again after the final whistle and Gattuso was seen headbutting the 59-year-old Scot. Gattuso, who picked up a yellow card during the second half, will miss the second leg through suspension and will likely now await a further charge for his disgusting antics at the end of the match.
- According to Opta it was his 17th yellow card in the history of the Champions League, more than any other player.
- Milan lacked leadership, maturity and discipline. It was a game in which they missed Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini badly.
- Once again Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a poor game on the big occasion. Admittedly it wasn’t an easy game for him to play in, as very few balls came his way, but when he did get the ball he was wasteful in holding it up and distributing. He also had no time for the physical aspect of the match until the final whistle came and he decided to get in the corner of ’Camp Gattuso’.
- I actually thought that referee Stephane Lannoy had an excellent game up until the 55th minute. The Frenchman let the game flow and got most things right up until Matthieu Flamini used both feet in a horrendous challenge on Vedran Corluka. Flamini should have seen a straight red and was very, very lucky to get just a yellow card. Corluka was taken off immediately, replaced by Jonathan Woodgate, pushing William Gallas to right back. The Croatian returned to the bench soon after, on crutches with his foot in a protective boot, to watch Woodgate and Gallas join the brilliant Michael Dawson in a resolute back four.
- On an absolute nightmare night for Milan and Allegri the only positive thing they can take away from the match was that they didn’t lose by more goals. Everything went wrong for them and they were severely outplayed, meaning no one will give them a chance in the second leg at White Hart Lane. Allegri, however, will tell his players that a win by a single goal will at least give them extra time and if they win 2-1 then they will progress.
- For Tottenham the dream of a Champions League quarter final spot is now more than just a distinct possibility. Missing Gareth Bale, having Rafael van der Vaart (and his substitute) Luka Modric not fully fit, and still coming away with a victory is a massive bonus for Redknapp and his staff.
- For a team, with just one clean sheet in their last 12 EPL away matches, to stop Milan scoring says a lot about their improvements but, perhaps, ultimately may say more about Milan who were simply too narrow in attack.
- Wilson Palacios
- Peter Crouch
- Michael Dawson
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