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Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg

Wednesday 09th March 2011


Tottenham have surprised a lot of people with their assured performances in Europe, sometimes against the odds, with the fact that it is all new to us not seemingly evident.  Much of this is Harry Redknapp's playing to our strengths with the attacking options being deployed, with varying degrees of success, but the steep learning curve was employed to full effect in the San Siro in the first leg.

A 1-0 win at the home of the prime exponents of winning 1-0 was a major achievement for Tottenham and with the away goal, it means that Milan have to find a goal and that could leave them leaving space as they go forward.  With Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale looking like they will be fit, the usual European line-up of Crouch up front with VDV and Bale pushing on from midfield looks like it will be ready to take to the pitch and cause AC Milan to concentrate on their defending.

With the Italians midfield hit particularly badly by injury, suspension and ineligibility, they have to decide who might play out of position, with Thiago Silva having had more success at centre half with Alessandro Nesta than in midfield, where he played in the first leg.  Clarence Seedorf was ineffective in the first leg and was subbed at half time, but could be pulled back to play a withdrawn role, with young Russian born German Christian Merkel also an option for the Rossoneri.  Whether Kevin-Prince Boateng returns to play against us at his former home remains a question mark, as he had to be taken off with an ankle injury on Saturday against Juventus, a third win on the spin since we last met. 

Others in the team who are doubtful, but will probably play are Alexandre Pato and defender Massimo Oddo, who are both suffering with flu and even Silva, who had a stomach bug after Saturday's match and may be weak even if he does turn out.

Milan will no doubt try to take the pace out of the game and stymie Tottenham's attacking threat by imposing themselves on the team by shutting down quickly and trying to take players out of the game, like Flamini did in the first game.  He should be playing and might face some attention during the match, but Tottenham need to concentrate on their shape and their own game, while not getting drawn into any nonsense with the Milan players, as their performance in the San Siro saw them rise above that and leave AC all the more frustrated.

Much will rely in the Italians getting the ball forward quickly to Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  Both are top class striker sand with Pato behind them, they could form a formidable triumvirate.  However, with Lennon and Bale, Spurs have their own attacking spearheads to make Allegri think about how is going to deal with them rather than what problems he can pose the Spurs defence.

Conceding three goals to Blackpool and Wolves is not great preparation for this game, but at least Jermain Defoe is scoring again and Pav also got on the score-sheet in both the previous two league games and the fact that neither of those forwards are likely to start might give Milan a few sleepless nights.

It will be a night when Spurs need to concentrate for the whole match and give of everything, as they did in the away leg.  Milan might not be used to the pace we play at and having won the first game without Bale, there will be a very different style to the first leg, when Palacios and Sandro did so well in the middle of midfield.  Whoever plays there this time will need to show as much determination and grit to ensure that whoever plays in Milan's midfield is not given time on the ball.

While anything can happen in Spurs' European matches, I think that the growing understanding of what is required will just see us through ... with an early goal helping to settle any nerves that might be present ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur    2      AC Milan    1


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (out - groin); Younes Kaboul (out - knee); Tom Huddlestone (out - ankle); Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin); Vedran Corluka (out - ankle); Gareth Bale (doubtful - stiff legs); - (-); 

AC MILAN :  -  Gennaro Gattuso (out - suspended); Andrea Pirlo (out - knee); Massimo Ambrosini (out - thigh); Mark van Bommel (out - ineligible); Urby Emanuelson (out - ineligible); Antonio Cassano (out - ineligible); Thiago Silva (hopeful - stomach virus); Kevin-Prince Boateng (out - ankle); Alexandre Pato (hopeful - flu); Massimo Oddo (hopeful - flu); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   0    AC Milan   0      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Wednesday 09th March 2011
Kick Off :  7.45 p.m.
Crowd :   34,320
Referee :  F. de Bleeckere (Belgium)
AC Milan kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Pre-match rain shower, but dry and chilly
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka
13  Gallas
20  Dawson (c)
32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon
30  Sandro
14  Modric
40  Pienaar (  8  Jenas 70)

11  van der Vaart  (  3  Bale 66)

15  Crouch  (  9  Pavlyuchenko 82)

Unused subs: 
  2  Hutton
26  King
18  Defoe

AC Milan :

32  Abbiati

18  Jankulovski       (77  Antonini 70)
13  Nesta
33  Thiago Silva
20  Abate

16  Flamini       (14  Strasser 77)
10  Seedorf (c)
27  Boateng  (52  Merkel 76)

  7  Pato     

Unused subs: 
17  Oddo
76  Yepes
15  Papastaphopolous

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  AC Milan
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur


AC Milan


Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  




AC Milan

Jankulovski (foul)  48
Flamini (foul)  63
Pato (not going back 10 yards at free-kick)  64


Match Report : -  
An impressively mature performance from Tottenham in this latest Champions League match gave them the necessary result to progress to the quarter-finals in their first campaign in the competition at the expense of seven times inners AC Milan, who could not get the goal they needed to put pressure on Spurs.

With a defiant rearguard display that one would not necessarily associate with Spurs, they secured a 0-0 score-line that was enough to ensure Peter Crouch's goal in the San Siro made it 1-0 on aggregate to knock out the Serie A leaders.  And it was a team performance that saw everyone play their part to a larger or lesser effect. 

Some players could not play their normal game, but put in the effort on behalf of the team and while our attacking instincts were thwarted by Milan's possession and the system they played, there was still a solidity that has been missing form Tottenham's play for a number of years.

With van der Vaart returning to the line-up, his now familiar European partnership with Crouch was renewed and Sandro lined up alongside Pienaar, Modric and Lennon in midfield, with Gareth Bale occupying a seat on the bench.  The defence saw the return of Charlie Corluka after his ankle injury in the first leg.  It saw Spurs set up in a similar way to the first leg, but Milan had made changes, playing Pato, Robinho and Ibrahimovic up front, while Thiago Silva moved to a more comfortable defensive position alongside Nesta and their full backs Abate and Jankulovski were looking to push on at every occasion.  Seedorf captained the side from midfield and the despised Flamini was in the side there too, with former Spurs Kevin-Prince Boateng (or Prince as he had on his shirt) lining up against his old team-mates.

There were a couple of early probes forward by Spurs, but they were unconvincing, as VDV got a half-shot off target after Pienaar had worked the ball to him and then the Dutchman almost got on the end of a Crouch nod-down, but Abbiati got there first and took what appeared to be a kick for his troubles.  The start of the game saw Milan enjoy a good deal of possession and they moved the ball quickly to try and open Spurs up.  Dawson prevented Ibrahimovic doing anything when Seedorf lifted a clever pass over the back line and when Pato got free on the left, his low ball across the face of goal failed to see any of his team-mates anticipate it and the good chance went begging.

The referee wasn't too bad all night, but did seem to have a bit of trouble when the ball was played up to Crouch, often giving free-kicks against him for backing in, when Nesta or Thiago Silva went over the top of him to win a header.  He also gave some soft free-kicks to Milan and from one in the 15th minute Ibrahimovic struck a fierce shot from 25 yards and Gomes dived to his left to push the ball away to safety.

As in the first leg, Crouch was causing the Milan defence problems and he won a header to Pienaar's left wing cross, but rising at the far post, he seemed caught between going for goal and heading back across goal and the ball floated onto the top of the goal.  But it was the visiting team who looked the more comfortable in the opening half, with some astute passing giving chances to their front three, but their efforts were blocked or off target.  That was until the 15th minute, when Nesta's forward pass was flicked through by Ibrahimovic to Pato, who got past the Spurs back four and took the ball into the box.  As he moved to the left, Gomes came racing out of goal to push him wider, but the Milan man skipped around him and pulled the ball back into the centre of the penalty area, with the goalkeeper out of position.  Robinho was waiting for the pass and his shot was half-hit into the ground and Benoit Assou-Ekotto threw himself in the way, with the ball bouncing off him and going towards the net.  Luckily, William Gallas had dropped back onto the line and kicked the waist-high ball away as Robinho closed in.

It was the worst of a number of nervy moments we Tottenham supporters suffered on a tense night.

Chances were coming more frequently.  A van der Vaart free-kick from slightly left of centre went over by a couple of feet, Gomes dived low to keep out a Pato drive and then Spurs got their first shot on target in the 31st minute, as Rafa's low shot was deflected off a defender's thigh and went into Abbiati's arms.  It had been a tough 45 minutes of football, but Spurs got through to half-time without any further scares and while the job was half done, there was still a long way to go.  Bale warmed up hard during half-time and we wondered if he would come on at the start of the second half, but Harry chose to keep things the same and within a couple of minutes, it almost paid off.

Sandro picked up the ball and put Lennon in on the right wing, looking up, the winger picked out Peter Crouch at the far post with his cross and rising above his marker, the England striker headed the ball back across goal, where there was no white shirt waiting, when he might have been better off trying to go for goal.  The tactic now was to get the ball to Lennon as often as possible and when a Milan attack broke down, the ball was played to him in his own half.  Aaron knocked the ball past Jankulovski and at 33, there is no way that his legs could keep pace with Lennon now.  As the Spurs man ran past him, he was cynically brought to the floor with a kick on each ankle, earning the Czech defender a yellow card.  Five minutes in, Lennon played a neat move with Corluka and was released into the box, where only some fortunate defending by Silva stopped him getting a shot in and then managing to kick the ball back to his own keeper from eight yards out.

Tottenham were having some defensive problems of their own, with the ball not being cleared effectively and it kept coming back, but the Italian side could not create a goal-threatening opportunity.  Flamini hit a shot across the face of goal and wide, which only needed a touch from a red and black shirt to go in, but there was not one on hand.  Then it was Lennon again, who had Milan on the back foot, helped by his marker's yellow card, meaning he could not dive in on the little winger.  One cross picked out Crouch, but he was pushing down on a defender as he jumped a little early, then another saw Peter knock down into the middle of the box, where Luka Modric was just a little late arriving and the ball was hacked clear.  A third advance in quick succession saw his cross pop up off Seedorf's thigh and with a hint of a touch on his hand before it went out for a corner, with the referee and the official behind the goal not interested in giving a penalty.

Twenty minutes into the half, Gomes had a rush of blood after taking a high ball in the box, when he threw it into the centre circle for van der Vaart, but the midfielder was on his heels and Thiago Silva nipped in to take possession.  From that the ball was worked to the right of the box, where Robinho hit a low shot and Gomes had to redeem himself with a block, that stopped the ball going past him, but Gallas got in the way to stop the rebound being knocked past the keeper and Milan's former Manchester City striker had the last touch of a scramble for the ball which took the ball wide of the goal.

Gareth Bale, who was not fully fit, replaced the not fully fit van der Vaart and Jermaine Jeans came on to add fresh legs for Steven Pienaar, who had worked hard blocking Abate's progress up their right wing.  For Milan Antonini came on for the run-ragged Jankulovski and Boateng limped off to be replaced by Alexander Merkel, who tried to impose himself with a series of heavy challenges.

Milan put together a nice passing move that opened Tottenham up on our right side, with Merkel and Robinho putting Pato in with a shooting chance that had the Milan section of the crowd roaring as the ball rippled the net, but luckily for Spurs, it was the outside of the side-netting and the score-line remained blank.  Crouch was replaced by Pavlyuchenko with eight minute left, as Spurs looked to try and hold the ball further up the field a bit better and the Russian moved the ball wide and won throw-ins and free-kicks at a good time for Tottenham.

Milan were running out of ideas about how to break Tottenham down and the game was drifting towards the final whistle until just into added time, a ball into Ibrahimovic was laid into the path of Robinho and the Brazilian hit a shot at goal that came off a Spurs body thrown in front of it and thankfully, the deflection was enough to take it over the top.  With the corner coming in, the whistle went and a free-kick was given to Tottenham for a foul and then the final whistle went, releasing a roar of relief and celebration from the players and the fans.

It was not a classic European encounter, but one in which Spurs showed that there is more to their game than the attack, attack, attack philosophy.  The defensive work came from players all over the pitch and not just the back four and while we failed to see the best of Modric and van der Vaart, they were still part of a performance that was partly enforce don Spurs by Milan's more offensive approach, but demonstrated that they are able to dig in if they need to.

Of all the players who featured in this mature Spurs showing, it was one of the youngest who gave one of the most accomplished displays and Sandro showed his growing importance to the team with a series of well-timed challenges and interceptions and the confidence to bring the ball away from them to launch attacks.  I think we are seeing the start of a very promising career for the Brazilian, who has been brought on well by Harry Redknapp.

Sandro's performance and that of the side as they have gone through the Champions League campaign are indications that the team are developing under Redknapp into one that he must have dreamed off for all his years in management.  It is one the fans have longed to see and hopefully, it will be a partnership that last for a long while to see the club move upwards and onwards.

Steve Pankhurst


Fan Reaction : -



Can't beat Blackpool.  Can't beat Wolves.  Can't even beat AC Milan, but it has put us into the quarter finals of the Champions League.

But what of the rest of our season ?

It might come down to a season without any tangible benefit, as a run in the CL without winning the trophy and not getting a top four place in the table will mean the Europa League for Spurs next season.  Expectations are now that Spurs will become a regular in the premier European competition.

Are there grounds for such hopes so soon ?

Well, the team are getting there, with a very good squad and some maturing performances which have seen them turn over some of Italy's big names so far.  But the English Premier League is a tougher proposition and getting to be the fourth best team in that might be harder than doing the same in the Champions League.

Martin Parry, Ware




Other scores in this round's second legs :
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)  (Won 6-2 on agg) 3 AS Roma (ITA) 0 Tuesday
Barcelona (SPA)  (Won 4-3 on agg) 3 Arsenal 1 Tuesday
FC Schalke 04 (GER)  (Won 4-2 on agg) 3 Valencia (SPA) 1 Wednesday
Bayern Munich (GER) 2 Internazionale (ITA)  (win 3-3 on away goals) 3 Tuesday (15.04)
Manchester United  (Won 2-1 on agg) 2 Marseille (FRA) 1 Tuesday (15.04)
Chelsea - - - -day
Real Madrid (SPA) - - - -day
FC Copenhagen (DEN) - - - -day
Lyon (FRA) - - - -day


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