Peter Fraser looks at the talking points from Tottenham's progress in the Champions League.
By Follow Peter Fraser on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 10/03/11 4:09pm
It was not so much glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur, but bravery and ambition that saw Harry Redknapp's heroes march into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.
For those in white, it was an evening of burdening tension as AC Milan's men swarmed around the immaculate White Hart Lane pitch when, ultimately unsuccessfully, attempting to overturn a 1-0 aggregate deficit.
But there was also plenty to learn from the 0-0 last-16 second-leg stalemate. Peter Fraser looks at the talking points from Tottenham's progress into the last eight of Europe.
You can't always get what you want
Sixty-four-year-old Redknapp will now, more than ever, be aware of the different dimensions and complexities involved in Champions League football. Tactically, Tottenham were outmanoeuvred by Milan in their second leg. Massimiliano Allegri's midfield diamond, underpinned by the excellent Clarence Seedorf, gave the visitors extra men in the central areas. Luka Modric was therefore shackled and, for Tottenham, it was far from the lightning counter-attacking that swept Young Boys, FC Twente, Inter Milan and Werder Bremen back along the Seven Sisters Road earlier in the campaign. Peter Crouch was instead the target for repeated long balls. But Tottenham also demonstrated that they are capable of the battling defensive performance, which many doubted was an attribute. Redknapp has admitted that before the game he ordered his players to 'get after them (Milan)'. The visitors' game-plan meant that he did not get what he wanted, but, in the gutsy rearguard of his team, he got what he needed.
The emergence of Sandro
With Milan dominating midfield, it was a night that would have been perfectly suited to the range of passing and muscle of Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone. But, with the 24-year-old still recovering from his long-standing ankle injury, it was left to one of his younger team-mates to step up. It remains to be seen whether Wednesday night was a coming-of-age moment for 21-year-old Sandro, however, it is certain that the Brazilian produced his best Tottenham performance to date. After a nervy start which included losing possession in risky areas of the pitch against the surprising pace and purpose of Milan, the 2010 signing from Internacional showed significant confidence to improve and give his defence a much-needed shield. Sandro also attacked when possible and his pass selection was close to perfect.
William Gallas and Michael Dawson have developed a superb partnership at the heart of Tottenham's defence. With Fabio Capello in the stands at White Hart Lane, the latter has surely played his way into the England team for March's Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales. Dawson is in his debut season at Champions League level, but the decision-making and timing of Tottenham's captain on the night is that of an experienced campaigner. Gallas is the perfect dovetail with several years of experience for Chelsea and Arsenal. The Frenchman's move across North London created huge controversy, however, he is now a lynchpin of Redknapp's plans. The reasons for Gallas' departure from Arsenal are much-publicised, but, when dominant and tenacious, the 33-year-old epitomises all the qualities that Arsene Wenger's team are currently missing at centre-back.
Strength and depth
Tottenham's bench was incredibly strong against Milan. Redknapp included Carlo Cudicini, Alan Hutton, Gareth Bale, Jermaine Jenas, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and even the surprise return from injury of centre-back Ledley King. There has long been an argument that, while they may lack the superstar names of rivals, Spurs have acquired the strongest squad in the Premier League. But comparing the Tottenham substitutes to that of European heavyweights Milan, who included Marco Amelia, Rodney Strasser, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Massimo Oddo, Mario Yepes, Luca Antonini and apparent rising star Alexander Merkel, also suggests that the English club have one of the best squads on the continent. Milan have injury problems, but Tottenham were also without Jonathan Woodgate, Younes Kaboul and Huddlestone.
The great myth?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a stellar reputation, but it is almost impossible to see why. Regular viewers of Serie A will likely argue otherwise, but the Sweden international never seems to produce his best when it is required. Dawson completely outplayed a striker who, at 29 years of age, is often described as one of the finest in Europe and has already totalled more than €100million in transfers. Ibrahimovic looked lumbered and lazy and did not threaten Tottenham in 180 minutes. It is not at all difficult to see why he was a spectacular flop amid the technical brilliance at Barcelona.
Tottenham have demonstrated why they would be a significant loss to Europe's most prestigious club competition if they do not qualify for next season's tournament. The match against Milan was an example of everything that there has been to adore about Spurs in their debut Champions League campaign. They have brought a freshness. They are like a first date - excitement, nerves and (for the crude minds) you do not know if you will score. Critics have played down Redknapp's achievement in beating Milan in comparison with Arsenal's elimination at the hands of tournament favourites Barcelona. True, Milan are not as good a team as Pep Guardiola's. But Tottenham had an easier draw in the knockout stages because they won a tough Group A, while Arsenal made a mess of the easier Group H to finish behind Shakhtar Donetsk.