What a day it was for Spurs fans! No, I’m not talking about the San Antonio Spurs here, but about those Tottenham Hotspurs were able to come out victorious at the San Siro against the Seria A leaders, AC Milan. What makes it more special? It was Tottenham’s first Champions League appearance, and there were no pregame jitters here. The Hotspurs flew right out of the gates, threatening the Milan goal in the opening minutes. Tottenham implemented great spacing, using the width of the field to their advantage. Wingers, Aaron Lennon and Steven Pienaar dominated the sidelines, as Milan gave them too much space to operate with. Lennon was basically unstoppable in the first-half, winning every one-on-one opportunity he got. The right-sideline belonged to him. Defensively, the Spurs had excellent positioning, tightening the gaps between the midfielders and the defenders. They used their physicality to frustrate the Milan attackers. Milan was constantly out of position in the first-half, and their midfield had no balance. Strikers, Ibrahimovic and Robhino displayed lackluster effort, as they showed no movement unless the ball was at their feet. Tottenham pretty much dominated every aspect of the game excluding the scoreboard. Milan luckily escaped the first-half with just a tie.
The second-half was a complete different ballgame. Milan came out making a change by inserting Pato for Clarence Seedorf, which instantly sparked the team and the crowd. I saw more good plays and opportunities from Milan in the opening five minutes of the second-half, than they did the entire first-half. The ball movement from Milan increased as they tried to gain control of the game. They had two great opportunities to score off of headers from Gennaro Gattuso and Mario Yepes, but were denied with great saves from Tottenham keeper, Gomes. Midway through the second-half, the intensity tripled. It all escalated when Milan midfielder, Mathieu Flamini, made a reckless challenge at Spurs defender, Vedran Corluka. The tackle knocked Corluka out of the game and Flamini was very fortunate to only receive a yellow card. In my opinion, that’s a straight red. Flamini dove in with both cleats, studs up. It was a kind if tackle that can end player’s career. Tottenham’s manager, Harry Redknapp, certainly agrees:
”That is a red card all day. How has he not got a red card for that?” Redknapp said after the game. ”It’s an absolute disgrace, they [UEFA] should look at that, surely, and do something about it. It’s a dangerous, dangerous tackle.”
That wasn’t the only incident but, there was also video footage of Gattuso shoving a Tottenham assistant in the face by the sidelines. Gattuso totally lost his cool, and also got into Peter Crouch’s face. The game was starting to get ugly.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 78th minute as Tottenham executed a counter-attack to perfection. Like all game, Lennon was given too much space as he took the ball nearly the entire length of the field and created an easy tap-in for Crouch. It was a brilliant play by Lennon as he took on two Milan defenders, which left Crouch unmarked. This was the only goal the Hotspurs needed, as Milan wasn’t able to equalize. The closest Milan got was in the final seconds of regulation, when an Ibrahimovic header was waved-off due to a foul. This was a huge win for Tottenham as they got the precious away-goal. However, the biggest controversy came after the match. Disgruntled, Gattuso was seen headbutting Spurs’ assistant Joe Jordan along with a lot of shoving. It’s disappointed to see this kind of behavior after a veteran like Gattuso. Let’s expect disciplinary actions to be enforced sometime soon. Milan got beat plain and simple. I hope the Hotspurs finish them off in the second-leg when it returns to White Hart Lane.
Man of the Match: Aaron Lennon
Final: Milan 0-1 Tottenham
Photos courtesy of Yahoo Sports and ESPN Soccernet.