AC Milan (Away)
Champions League

Tuesday 15th February 2011

After a run of good victories in the Premier League, Spurs return to Champions League action with a very different proposition in wait in the shape of AC Milan at the San Siro.

Both sides have injury trouble with Spurs missing Luka Modric, Tom Huddlestone, Gareth Bale, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, while Milan will have to cope without thigh injury victim Massimo Ambrosini and play-maker Andrea Pirlo, who is out for six weeks with a knee problem. January signings Mark van Bommel, Antonio Cassano and Urby Emanuelson are all cup-tied and will take no part in the two games in this round. Bale was the player they were all taking about in Italy and his absence might give Milan more confidence in the home leg, as his attacking threat will not be present and that might persuade them that they can press on a bit more.

A comfortable 4-0 win over Parma allowed the Milan coach Allegri to take off Ibrahimovic and Seedorf, while the rest of the team could ease through the game with the scoring wrapped up within 65 minutes.  The team tops Serie A at the moment and have surprised many observers of Italian football, with Allegri having overcome some of the egos on and off the pitch to bring his squad together to reach a high standard of play.

For Spurs, one factor that will help them is the age of this Milan side, with a number of players remaining from the last Champions League winning side, but perhaps coming to the end of their time with the club.  With Spurs generally having a younger side, the tempo that they like to play the game might be at a higher pace than Serie A and they may not be accustomed to teams taking the game to them.

Among the star names likely to feature at some point are Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, temperamental Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, ex-Manchester City Brazilian forward Robinho and the rising young star of world football Alexandre Pato.  Pato is a nimble attacking striker, who is one of the players that you could watch all day.  Skilful and with an eye for goal, he appears to have adapted to Italian football and it will be interesting to see how he gets on against English opposition, with his skill pitted against strength and power.  Ibrahimovic is another watchable player, but when he implodes, it tends to affect the whole team and if he can be shut out and made frustrated, he could disrupt Milan's plans.

Former Lazio centre half Massimo Oddo is a big lad and does not take any prisoners, but he is not so fleet of foot and with veteran Alessandro Nesta having had injury problems this season, there is experience at the heart of the Rossoneri's defence, but there is age too and Colombian Mario Yepes has stood in for Nesta at the age of 35.  Brazilian stopper Thiago Silva is a spring chicken at 26, while Luca Antonini is 28 and Czech full back/midfielder Marek Jankulovski is 33, with 34 year old Nicola Negrottaglie signed from Juventus in January on a six month deal.  It might mean that there will need to be a trick or two that the defenders haven't seen to get past them, but in a foot race, Spurs' speed merchant Aaron Lennon and even some of the other midfielders might take them on.  The youngest defender they have used this season is Sokratis Papastathopoulis, who signed in July from Genoa and is the baby of the defence at just 22.  He hasn't played that often though.

In midfield, former Glasgow Rangers man Rino Gattusso is the tough tackling rock that the side is crafted around.  A reliable, but uncompromising figure, the bearded little man will try to dictate the play and Spurs will need to match him for commitment.  Former Gooner Mathieu Flamini is also in AC Milan's squad and was rumoured to be a transfer target for Tottenham last summer, but he has said he is looking to put one over us for his old club.  Light-weight, but with a fearless ability to go into tackles he shouldn't, Flamini likes to get forward into the box and arrive late to finish crosses into the area. Alexander Merkel is an 18 year old German, who has been used sparingly and might not feature in this Champions League tie, but he is a tenacious midfielder, who models himself on Alexander Hleb, as his parents are from Belarus

Filippo Inzaghi is the old man of the attack and while noted for "being born offside", he has the knack of scoring important goals.  He uses his experience, as his turn of pace has gone now, but needs to be watched, as he can still teach a defender a thing or two about goal-scoring.

Goalkeeper Marco Amelia went to the World Cup and is on loan from Genoa, as back up to number one goalie at the club Christian Abbiati, who is first choice at the club following Brazilian keeper Dida's departure from the San Siro.  Tall at 6' 3" and athletic, Spurs might be able to surprise him with their play, which he may not be used to.  Crouch might be denied chances in the air by his height, but the ability to hit early shots seems to take continental keepers by surprise, so it might be the order of the day ... shoot on sight.

Without the players Spurs are missing, I think it will be a tough task to come away from Milan with anything, but with a second leg at home, albeit against a side experienced in European competition, I think there is always a chance, so a narrow defeat might be the outcome of this game ...

PREDICTION : -    AC Milan    1      Tottenham Hotspur    0

For useful information on travelling to Milan, click here.


AC MILAN :  -  Andrea Pirlo (out - knee); Massimo Ambrosini (out - thigh); Mark van Bommel (out - cup-tied); Antonio Cassano (out - cup-tied); Urby Emanuelson (out - cup-tied); - (-); 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (out - groin); Luka Modric (out - appendicitis); Tom Huddlestone (out - ankle); Younes Kaboul (out - knee); Gareth Bale (out - back); Peter Crouch (out - back); Jermaine Jenas (out - suspended); - (-);


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AC Milan   0    Tottenham Hotspur   1     (Half-time score : 0-0)

Champions League Round of 16
Venue :  -  San Siro
Tuesday 15th February 2011
Kick Off :  19.45 p.m.
Crowd :   80,000
Referee :  Stephane Lannoy (France)
Weather :  -  Heavy rain
Teams : - 
AC Milan :

32  Abbiate (  1  Amelia  18)

20  Abate
13  Nesta
76  Yepes     
77  Antonini

  8  Gattuso     
16  Flamini     
33  Thiago Silva
20  Seedorf  (  7  Pato 46)

70  Robinho

Unused subs: 
18  Jankulovski
10  Oddo
52  Merkel
66  Legrottaglie

15  Papastahopoulos

Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka  (39  Woodgate 58)
13  Gallas
20  Dawson (c)
32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon
12  Palacios
30  Sandro
40  Pienaar  (21  Kranjcar 77)

11  van der Vaart   (14  Modric 62)

15  Crouch  

Unused subs: 
19  Bassong
18  Defoe
  9  Pavlyuchenko

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
AC Milan

  Tottenham Hotspur
Scorers : -  
AC Milan


Tottenham Hotspur

Crouch 80

Cards : -  
AC Milan

Flamini (foul)  55
Yepes (obstruction)  61
Gattuso (foul)  76


Tottenham Hotspur  




Match Report : -  
When Sandro picked off a pass on the edge of the Tottenham box in the 79th minute and passed to Luka Modric, just a few yards away, you could hardly have predicted what was about to happen.  Moving the ball quickly onto Aaron Lennon, as Luka does to keep the team moving forward, the winger got the ball about 50 metres from the Milan penalty area, but his speed took him 48 metres before a challenge came in, with Yepes desperately trying to bring him down.  Aaron skipped over that sad effort and as Nesta came across to him, squared the ball for Peter Crouch to sweep right footed into the net from just inside the box.

And at that point, it all became a bit difficult to take in.

Spurs had gone away to AC Milan - seven times winners of the European Cup/Champions League.  Now not quite the team that won those trophies, but still top of Serie A and with some top players, but Tottenham had won by keeping a clean sheet thanks to two memorable saves by Heurelho Gomes and some heroic defending and then nicked a win with a clinical piece of finishing after hitting the Italians on the break.

Marvellous !!

And the way Spurs had started the game, even without Gareth Bale, Ledley King, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Younes Kaboul and not having Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe in the starting line-up, they deserved the win.  Taking the game to Milan saw Spurs win four corners and have the bulk of the attacking play within the first half and this pushed the Rossoneri back towards their own goal, with the closing down by the midfielders and the anticipation by the back four not allowing the ball to stick with the Milan attacking players.  The likes of Clarence Seedorf, Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Robinho were all made to look ordinary.  Seedorf's influence on the game, which could have been a significant factor in the outcome, was nullified by the effort put in by Palacios and Sandro, who built on Saturday's performance to show he has great value to the Tottenham side.

The early chances were all created by Spurs.  They could have been a goal up within a minute, although when the shout went up for a penalty as Nesta bent his body and his arm to knock away Steven Pienaar's low cross, perhaps it was for the best that the claim went unheeded what with with the record the team has for missing spot-kicks.  Tottenham were looking to hit Crouch with the diagonal ball in the box as often as possible and he was causing their defenders all sorts of problems, with Yepes and Nesta could only back into the Spurs striker to try and put him off winning the ball.  Gattuso did well to get to Crouchy when he took a cross form Corluka down on his chest at the far post and was about to get his shot away.

Charlie and Aaron were linking nicely down the right wing and Antonini was being passed easily by Lennon, with Corluka threading some nice passes inside the full back to put the winger away.  Spurs hit a couple of shots from outside the box, without giving Abbiati too much trouble, but then he appeared to be caught as he came out to claim a ball he had dropped and had a lengthy spell of treatment, before he left the pitch on a stretcher with a neck brace on.  His replacement, Amelia, entered the play on 18 minutes.  Surprisingly, having tested the starting goalie with the crosses to Crouch, Tottenham then stopped that tactic and started to try and play through the AC Milan defence.

It was a move that didn't produce as much on goal for Spurs and Milan were breaking things up and launching their own counter-attacks, although a cross that Gomes and Gallas got away and a penalty appeal when Ibrahimovich went down too theatrically for a foul outside the box was all they had to show for it at that stage.  Tottenham's back four nipped in front of the Milan players who were waiting for the bal to reach them and the midfielders got back and nicked the away from them as they were dwelling on it, unable to find a free team-mate to pass to.

This lead to Spurs having a couple of chances towards the end of the half, with Aaron Lennon getting past Antonini once more, but hitting a powerful drive head high, but with no-one there to finish it, before van der Vaart hitting a shot from 25 yards out, as there was nobody in front of him, but it was straight at Amelia and an easy one for him top push over the top.  There was one last nervy moment for Spurs before the half-time whistle, when Robinho got away on the left wing and put a low ball across the box, which might have been a shot, but it went harmlessly wide with no other red and black shirt near to get a touch on it.

The Italian fans are as a un-loveable bunch as you could wish to meet and their half-time antics were unnecessary in the extreme, but another example of how Spurs had got to them, as they probably thought they would roll us over.  As Pato warmed up on the pitch, it must have been hard for Allegri to know who to bring off.

Seedorf was the one to make way, but it could quite easily have been any number of others.  Pato seemed to inject a bit of energy into the team to start off with.  But Tottenham's own creator, Rafael van der Vaart conjured a piece of magic two minutes after the restart when he received the ball just outside the box.

Five minutes in, Gattuso managed to do something with the ball and his cross from the right wing found Yepes, up for a corner, heading powerfully towards Gomes' top right corner.  Somehow, the Spurs goalie reached upwards and slightly backwards to get a good hand to swipe the ball out and wide of the goal, where it was cleared away.  it was an outstanding, athletic save from Heurelho and would have been an injustice if Spurs had fallen behind.

Tottenham continued to press forward and Rafael had a couple of efforts on goal, one wide and a free kick that was easy enough for Amelia to stop, but the game to boiling point in the 55th minute, when Mathieu Flamini launched himself into a tackle on Vedran Corluka from about five yards away that saw him parallel to the ground with both sets of studs showing to the Spurs full back.  The impact between the two luckily had the ball in between, otherwise Corluka would have been looking at a broken leg or two, such was the ferocity of the challenge.  The Milan players were then complaining to the referee to get Corluka off the pitch and Robinho even stepped on the Croatian.  Shameful scenes from a bunch of ignorant thugs.

When play resumed, Spurs were unable to get Jonathan Woodgate on for about three minutes, thus confounding the ref's yellow card for Flamini, by punishing Spurs by keeping them to ten men for so long.  It mattered not, as Milan were unable to take advantage and Woodgate slipped into the centre of defence alongside Dawson, with William Gallas moving to right back.  All three then proceeded to play blinders as Milan huffed and puffed and were reduced to pumping high balls into the Tottenham box.

But within a minute of the change, one ball into the area from Thiago Silva on the right dipped and was met by the Colombian Yepes again, with the ball heading into the same side of Gomes' goal again, but Brazilian boy reacted superbly to get hands to the ball and push it out with Gallas finishing the clearance to remove any danger on the Spurs net.

As Milan turned into Stoke City (although that is a little unfair on Stoke), Gomes was more at home with dealing with the balls coming his way and claimed or punched clear well.  Nesta hit a cleared ball wide of the goal and then Woodgate came out to block Flamini, who shaped up to shoot form the edge of the area.  The Spurs defenders were alive to the danger every time Milan got near the box, but it was away from the box that the next danger came and it was from Gattuso, who threatened to explode with unbridled anger after he took Pienaar down from behind and the ref pulled out the yellow card.  Frankly, from his antics earlier in the game, when he seemed to be trying to rile Peter Crouch at every opportunity, but only succeeded in pushing him in the chest a few times, this could have been the second or third chance for the ref to give him a second yellow.  As the work-a-day midfielder lay on the floor, he punched the turf as he was incandescent with rage ... and it was hilarious to see.  The yellow meant he would miss the return leg at White Hart Lane and I expected he might go out to finish the job by kicking everything that moved to get a red, as it would not matter any more to him.

A neat interchange of passes on the edge of the Tottenham area ended with Ibrahimovic having a shot that Dawson got in the way and for a moment it looked like the ball might wrong-foot Gomes, but it flew harmlessly straight at him.  Harry had replaced van der Vaart with Modric and Kranjcar came on for Pienaar, which proved to be vital substitutions.  Kranjcar worked hard and Luka's use of the ball helped Spurs retain possession at a time when AC Milan looked like they might go on to cause Spurs problems.

The home team were passing the ball better and when a ball into the D was intercepted by the impressive Sandro, he knocked a short pass to Modric.  Immediately, he turned the ball past a Milan player to Lennon, some 10 metres outside his own area and he was off.  His little legs were a blur as he raced into the open grass ahead of him.  With no-one near enough to catch him, Yepes was the only defender ready to face him and he had backed off to 10 metres outside his won box, so when Lennon got there he was at top speed and with the Colombian more intent on taking the England winger out, it was simple enough to knock the ball past him and hurdle his crude challenge.  With only Nesta back and Crouch to Lennon's left, it would have been easy for Aaron to have a shot, but drawing Nesta, he slipped the ball to his left and Crouch took the shot on first time from just inside the 18 yard line.  Amelia wasn't set for it and the ball went into the net right by the keeper's right hand post and the Spurs players went berserk.  As did the fans !!

There was still ten minutes left plus the considerable amount of time it took to treat Corluka, so the job was not yet done.  All game Palacios and Sandro had worked really hard to stop Milan having the time and space to play and when Ibrahimovic got into the Spurs box just after the goal, Sandro tracked back excellently to block his ball in, but also got the final touch off the Swede for a Tottenham goal-kick.  Robinho and Ibrahimovic continued their decidedly average night with shots wide and high, before Tottenham started to play keep ball and eat up the time.

With things becoming ever more desperate for Milan a high ball into the box dropped level with Gomes' left hand post and with Palacios and Dawson both there, it looked a safe enough situation to get the ball away.  However, they both left it for each other and with Robinho closing in, Dawson had to throw himself at the ball to block the resulting shot.  Even more worrying was deeper into the last minute of added time, when a ball came in from the Milan left and Ibrahimovic planted an over-head kick past Gomes from five yards out.  But way before the ball had entered the goal, the assistant behind the goal and the one on the touchline had noticed that the Swedish striker had pushed Dawson out of the way to make room to execute the effort on goal.

The crowd were not happy with the decision, but then most of them had left by then.  As disapproving of their team's performance as the Spurs fans were jubilant at the performance of their side as the final whistle went.  Not that the AC Milan side shared their joy, with Gattuso getting a Spurs shirt before going up to Joe Jordan and planting a head-butt on his nose.  Knowing Jordan's reputation as a player and that you should never give a 'Glasgow Kiss' to someone from just outside that Scottish city, Gattuso was risking a lot, but Jordan showed restraint and left the little Italian looking like a young pretender, who cannot bear the fact that he will never be a household name.

But the Tottenham stars of tonight all deserve to be known in households across England and Europe.  Sandro showed he can be a star in midfield, whether it is going forwards or getting back behind the ball, while Palacios showed a measured approach to his play not always evident in the Premier League.  Lennon's pace caused problems all night when he was on the ball, while Pienaar worked the left hand side with determination and skill, as the midfield stuck to their tasks and left Milan's opposite number looking ordinary.  Crouchy worked tirelessly and got his just reward for some nasty treatment from Milan's players and van der Vaart dropped off into those areas that Milan found it hard to pick him up in.  The back four and the goalkeeper were all phenomenal, with Assou-Ekotto putting in a level-headed display with none of the errors that sometimes creep into his game, while Corluka had such an easy time, he spent it getting forward to support Lennon most of the time he was on the pitch and Dawson and Gallas, and then Woodgate, mopped up most of the supply into the middle with strength and poise.  When it did get past them it didn't get past Gomes and his two saves proved crucial to the keeping of the clean sheet.

And a word for the coaches and manager, who took difficult decisions and they proved to be the right ones, as Spurs won their individual battles all over the pitch and off it too.  Harry deserves the plaudits for some timely substitutions and for being brave enough to play Pienaar instead of the in-form Kranjcar and also to bring on Woodgate, who hadn't played for 15 months instead of putting Bassong on when Corluka was carried off.

Finally, the fans were magnificent, with the singing drowning out the Milan chants and going on long into the night, as they had gone on long before the match.

A night to remember and one that is becoming all too common in Tottenham's season, as the Champions League adventure rolls on.  It is not won yet, but the physical score-line as well as the psychological damage the 1-0 win will have puts the team in with a great chance of going even further.  We will see what the second instalment holds in two weeks time.

Marco van Hip


Fan Reaction : -



The sight of that little shite Gattuso grabbing Joe Jordan by the throat with a captain's armband with the word "Respect" on it on the other arm is one that UEFA need to look at carefully.  How could he get away with raising his hands to Crouch three times and then head-butting Jordan at the end ?

Having played at the San Siro and knowing the club, Jordan held himself in check or you feel that he would have taken the little troglodyte's head off if he had wanted to.  Also Joe has his reputation to uphold ... something that Gattuso has never had nor will he ever have, other than one for being a low rent workhorse who niggles away at players like an Italian Robbie Savage to try and put others off their game rather than be able to do it in a way where he is a creative force.

It was a sign that the frustration that Spurs had caused AC Milan was coming out in this way and the sickening tackle Gooner Flamini put in on Corluka.  Cynical Italian football can be, but this was just downright thuggery and violence on a level of Barcelona's when they played Spurs in 1982.  This assault was nothing more than cowardly, as there was no way that Flamini would come out of it injured and Corluka was not expecting anything like that on a football pitch.  Commentators said that Flamini went into the Spurs dressing room to apologise, but it was as late as his tackle was.  He was the one who should have been in the dressing room early, but it was amazing that the ref only gave him a yellow card.

Great teams have class.

Luckily for us, it looks like Tottenham are turning into a class side and AC Milan are falling from their perch.

Charlie, Barnet

Two seasons ago, we were putting out a team of youngsters and fringe players to get out of the UEFA Cup at the Round of 32 stage. 

Now, we are taking on the cream of Europe at the Round of 16 stage of the Champions League and we look a handful for any team ... with or without our most influential players.

How AC Milan are top of Serie A, I don't know, but it shows that we would probably win that title, while at home, we are battling to get a regular place in the top four and it will be a crying shame if we don't qualify for the tournament next season.

Although we are novices at this level, there can be little doubt that we deserve to be there and we have got this far on merit.

Even though this is our first Champions League away win ... there can't be many places better to get it !!

Steve Harrington







Other scores in this round's first legs :
Valencia (SPA) 1 FC Schalke 04 (GER) 1 Tuesday
Arsenal 2 Barcelona (SPA) 1 Wednesday
AS Roma (ITA) 2 Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 3 Wednesday
Internazionale (ITA) - - - -day
Real Madrid (SPA) - - - -day
Bayern Munich (GER) - - - -day
Chelsea - - - -day
FC Copenhagen (DEN) - - - -day
Lyon (FRA) - - - -day
Manchester United - - - -day
Marseille (FRA) - - - -day


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