Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tottenham Show What They're Made Of In Milan Stalemate

Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson (left) foils AC Milan striker Zlatan IbrahimovicFans walking into White Hart Lane, minutes before the kick-off of their second leg tie against Italian giants AC Milan, were full of optimism. After "Glory, Glory" nights in all of their previous home Champions League games, it seemed a certainty that the attacking gems at the disposal of Harry Redknapp would sparkle once again.

However, as early as the fifth minute, it became clear that this night would be different from all the others. Milan, who fielded a surprisingly attacking line-up, kept possession superbly with Kevin Prince Boateng, Matieu Flamini, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, moving the ball around well. Spurs were unable to get their attacking game going, with Modric's deep diagonal onto the head of Crouch becoming woefully predictable. 

In fact, had it not been for a scuffed Robinho shot, and a terrific clearance off the line from Gallas (one that was reminiscent of his famously failed clearance which resulted in Luis Garcia's "ghost goal") Tottenham may have gone into the break with their hard earned one goal advantage wiped out. 

In the second half, Spurs continued to struggle, with only last ditch interceptions from defensive duo Dawson and Gallas preventing a Milan goal. As the game dragged on Spurs fans became noticeably quieter, as the White Hart Lane faithful experienced their first taste of true Champions League nervousness. 

With twenty-five minutes left on the clock, Redknapp gave the home crowd a lift, as Gareth Bale came on for the ineffectual Rafael Van Der Vaart. With Lennon on one side and Bale on the other, it seemed only a matter of time before one of the Spurs wingers got in behind, but no opening was forthcoming, with Ignazio Abate in particular defending stoutly.

As AC Milan ratcheted up the pressure minute by minute, Spurs became increasingly reliant on Brazilian holding midfielder, Sandro. Sandro's first leg performance was touted as his best so far for Tottenham, and the player imported from Brazilian football, shone brightly again in this game. Attack after attack for Milan was snuffed out by a Sandro challenge, as Allegri's side began continued to be frustrated by what was beginning to resemble a wall of white shirts. 

With one eye now firmly placed on the clock, Tottenham continued to plug away, hoping against hope that they could resist the mounting Milanese pressure. Finally, after what had seemed an age to Tottenham supporters, the final whistle blew, confirming the North London club's progression into the Quarter Finals of the Champions League.

But this two legged victory does not just mean a place for Tottenham's name on a slip of paper, contained by a miniature Champions League ball. It signals a new maturity in the Spurs ranks, one that was missing at the weekend during the their stunning 3-3 draw at Wolves. If Tottenham continue to improve their ability at grinding out results, then maybe a place in the Quarters isn't where their Champions League fairytale will end. 

No comments:

Post a Comment