Tottenham produced the performance of many a season to defeat hotly fancied AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro and take the tie back to White Hart Lane in a couple of weeks with their destiny firmly in their hands. Peter Crouch scored an 80th minute winner following great work by Aaron Lennon, but it was the nature of the team performance and the discipline shown from the first whistle that really impressed.
Spurs went into the game missing a number of key players, and despite their underdogs tag, the visitors looked to take the game to their illustrious opponents and attack. In a compelling first half, Spurs played some excellent football and dominated the early exchanges, attacking right from the first whistle and the visitors had a penalty appeal turned down in the first minute, as Alessandro Nesta appeared to block a Steven Pienaar cross with his arm. The Tottenham players were not in awe of the occasion, and looked the better side; the best chance of the half fell to returning Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart, who had a shot from 25 yards tipped over by Milan replacement keeper Amelia. Milan did pose some threat, and had a penalty appeal of their own waved away as Ibrahimovic went down under a Sandro challenge. At half time the scores were level but Harry Redknapp would have been the happier of the two managers.
Early in the second half Spurs started brightly again, and Van der Vaart looked to have broke the deadlock with a chip over goalie Amelia, but the ball sailed agonisingly wide. Milan had rung the changes at halftime and brought on Alexandre Pato for Clarence Seedorf, and the young Brazilian looked to bring a bit of urgency and dynamism to the Milan attack. With all to play for the game turned into a tense affair, with a number of swashbuckling challenges flying in, mainly from the Milan side, who grew increasingly impatient and frustrated at their inability to break their opponents down. Gennaro Gattuso was the main culprit and showed petulence and ill discipline in an angry display, and was booked for a challenge on Steven Pienaar which means the ex-Rangers man will miss the second leg. Gattuso was also guilty of pushing Crouch and clashed with Spurs assistant Joe Jordan both during the game and after the final whistle, where he has been accused of headbutting the Scot. Mathieu Flamini was also lucky to stay on the pitch as a reckless and cowardly two footed tackle on Vedran Corluka resulted in a yellow card for the ex-Arsenal midfielder; Corluka had to leave the pitch on a stretcher and was replaced by injury ravaged defender Jonathan Woodgate. Despite these bully boy tactics, Tottenham kept their composure, defended well and limited Milan to few chances, the best of which was a Mario Yepes header saved by Spurs stopper Gomes. Spurs defended right from the front, with Crouch getting through a lot of work and wingers Lennon and Pienaar tracking back well to help their fullbacks.
The decisive moment in the match came in the 80th minute, with a flowing counter attack leading to Crouch opening the scoring for the visitors with a neat finish. Aaron Lennon, who troubled Milan all night, showed great pace to expose Yepes and had the compsore to square the ball to Crouch, who duly finished and gave Spurs the advantage. Milan huffed and puffed, and their best chance came in stoppage time as a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal was ruled out for an obvious and blatant push on Michael Dawson.
This was an historic and memorable night for the North London club, one that will not be forgotten any time soon by the travelling faithful, and Spurs will look to finish the job on 9 March when they host Milan at White Hart Lane. Manager Harry Redknapp will know however that the tie is far from over and Milan have the quality to come to England and win, but a repeat of Tuesday’s performance will set Spurs in good standing to proceed. For the meantime Spurs players and fans alike will enjoy and cherish the achievement of beating one of Europe’s top teams, and be dreaming of Champions League progression in weeks to come.

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