Crouch inspires Spurs upset
Tottenham took a step closer to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with a surprise 1-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro.
Last Updated: 16/02/11 2:21pm
Tottenham took a step closer to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with a surprise 1-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday night.
Harry Redknapp's side will be brimming with confidence going into the second leg of the last-16 clash at White Hart Lane after comprehensively seeing off the Serie A giants in a dramatic encounter.
Spurs had already caused trouble for the Rossoneri's fierce local rivals Inter Milan in the group stages and a drizzly night in Italy could not dampen their spirits as Peter Crouch hit home a superb winner late in the second half.
A slow opening half saw Tottenham look much the better side, with Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes barely troubled as the visitors put the Italians under pressure.
The introduction of Brazilian ace Pato from the bench in the second half saw Milan up their game but it was ultimately Spurs who broke the deadlock.
Aaron Lennon was the genius behind the goal, breaking away with an electrifying run and evading Milan defender Mario Yepes to feed Crouch in the box, who made no mistake rolling a perfectly-timed finish home 10 minutes from time.
The victory comes as a huge boost for Spurs, who will look to emulate their commanding team display when they host the Rossoneri in north London next month.
The match was nothing like the pulsating 4-3 loss to Inter back in November or the 3-1 Spurs victory in the reverse fixture, but Redknapp will not care one bit.
The home side were lucky to end the match with 10 men after a horrific late lunge from Matthieu Flamini on Vedran Corluka, and some shocking behaviour from Gennaro Gattuso, who appeared to headbutt Spurs assistant Joe Jordan after the final whistle.
But Crouch's goal - his sixth in eight European matches this season - means Spurs take a lead into next month's second leg.
Four months ago Redknapp saw his side almost complete a remarkable second-half comeback against Inter thanks to Gareth Bale's hat-trick.
The Welshman was missing on Tuesday after failing to recover from a back injury. Niko Kranjcar, who had deputised for Bale so well, was a surprise omission from Tottenham's starting XI, with Steven Pienaar taking Bale's usual position down the left flank.
Luka Modric failed to recover from his appendix injury in time and was named among the substitutes.
Two familiar foes were named among the Milan team - former Arsenal midfielder Flamini and ex-Manchester City striker Robinho.
Despite seeing his side collapse against Inter here in October, Redknapp urged his team to stick to their attacking principles and throw everything at the Italians.
Crouch proved to be the visitors' most potent weapon in the opening exchanges, causing Christian Abbiati to come and punch away a dangerous low cross.
Abbiati picked up a head injury when challenging the tall marksman for the ball and had to be replaced by substitute goalkeeper Marco Amelia.
Milan sounded Spurs a warning with their first real chance 20 minutes in, Robinho bursting down the right and crossing to Zlatan Ibrahimovic but William Gallas jumped in with a decisive clearance.
Milan thought they should have had a penalty 23 minutes in when Sandro clattered into Ibrahimovic but referee Stephane Lannoy waved the protests away.
Michael Dawson went clattering into Ibrahimovic with a raised arm in the box.
The Swede went down clutching his head but soon returned to his feet after seeing his penalty appeal turned down.
Flamini was lucky not to be booked for a late sliding challenge on Rafael van der Vaart.
Aaron Lennon turned Luca Antonini inside the box but he sent over a high cross that even Crouch could not get on the end of.
Van der Vaart gained a yard and fired a blistering shot that Amelia tipped over with a brilliant save.
Crouch received a bruising kick to the ribs from Alessandro Nesta's follow-through towards the end of the half.
The second half began with a period of intense Milan pressure.
Heurelho Gomes pulled off a superb flying one-handed save to deny Yepes, who rose well to meet Gattuso's cross.
The game took an ugly turn 55 minutes in when Flamini flew in with a diving two-footed tackle on Corluka which sent the full-black flying into the air.
To the Spurs' players anger, the midfielder only saw yellow. Corluka had to be stretchered off and replaced by Jonathan Woodgate, who came on for his first appearance since November 2009.
Tempers frayed moments later when Pienaar clattered into Gattuso.
Spurs assistant Jordan was furious with the referee's decision to give a foul and squared up to the midfielder on the touchline. Both men pushed each other before Redknapp stepped in and they both walked away.
Play eventually resumed after both sets of players remonstrated with each other.
Yepes drew another point-blank save from Gomes with a six-yard header but the centre-half showed his petulant side by needlessly barging into the Brazilian when he went to throw the ball out seconds later.
Van der Vaart, clearly struggling with his calf injury, was replaced by Modric on the hour.
The ugliness continued, Crouch the latest person to clash with Gattuso when he went for a header.
The Milan captain was then finally booked for a late tackle on Pienaar.
Milan pushed for an opener but they were shocked when Crouch broke the deadlock with 10 minutes left.
Lennon raced at the Milan defence with blistering pace, hurdled Yepes' challenge and squared for the former Liverpool man to tap home from 12 yards.
The hosts pushed for an equaliser but had to resort to long shots as Tottenham held onto the ball well, much to the delight of the travelling 5,000 Spurs fans.
Dawson had to put in a last-gasp tackle to deny Antonini as the game entered injury time before Ibrahimovic thought he had pulled one back with a superb volley but he was adjudged to have pushed Dawson in the box.The ugly scenes that had marred the match continued after the whistle with Gattuso appearing to head-butt Jordan.
|Milan||Team Statistics||Tottenham Hotspur|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||6|
|5||Shots off Target||2|