The scuffle that occurred following the final whistle, amongst all of which Milan’s bulldog of a midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was seen to head-butt Joe Jordan, the Tottenham Assistant Manager, proved just how many feathers Spurs are ruffling this season amongst the elite of European football on a night when they overcame yet another questioning of their credentials when it came to playing football at the highest level.
Peter Crouch’s goal ten minutes from time, following a flowing counter attack in which Aaron Lennon flew up the pitch to lay the simplest of chances on a plate for the tall Englishman to slot home, saw the Lilywhites record a 1-0 win at the San Siro. Harry Redknapp’s side go back to White Hart Lane with the lead and more importantly an away goal, something which few clubs have been able to say they have achieved when they return back from Italy.
Spurs fans may already be contemplating a mouth-watering Champions League quarter final draw, but Redknapp will know that the job is far from over. For all the plaudits that the London club will earn following their victory, Milan still had chances to score. Chances which on another day, they may well have taken.
Brazil goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was twice required to keep his side in the match as Milan’s Mario Yepes fired in two thundering headers. If that were not enough, with the referee only second from blowing the final whistle the home side saw themselves draw level as Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired home a shot, only for the goal to be rules out for offside.
That said, on a night when attractive football would not have been on many people’s minds as the rain lashed down, Spurs continued to play the only way they know how. With few defensive midfielders to call on, Redknapp sent out an attack minded side that would look to get the ball down and play.
This clearly caught Milan off guard, and for much of the match the visitors looked the better side. Their continued intent to play through the midfield clearly riled Gattuso, Milan’s captain, and far before his escapades at the final whistle, which UEFA are sure to come done heavily upon, the World Cup winner was already suspended from the return leg, picking up a second booking of the tournament for unsporting behaviour just after the hour mark.
And so Spurs not only take the aggregate lead into the return leg, but they also have the mental edge and the numerical advantage with Gareth Bale likely to be back. However, even with such factors in their favour, Rednapp will know that the job is not even half completed yet, and that if his side are to progress, they may well need to find a different way to win matches, of not now, then at some point soon. Because if there is any side that is likely to not roll over, it will surely be seven times European Cup winners AC Milan.