Top 10 conclusions: Tottenham 0-0 AC Milan
1. Spurs have a sensible gear
At the start of the game the cacophonous chant of When The Spurs Go Marching In ripped around White Hart Lane like Chris Hoy around a Velodrome. But the key to Tottenham’s success last night was to do anything but march in for once. Instead they stood their ground and admirably defended a slender lead – somewhat out of character given that they had scored 25 goals in nine European fixtures this season. It was a sensible and mature outing in Europe – far from Spurs’ default setting, but a very useful club to have in the bag for the latter stages nonetheless. Surprisingly for such a young talent, it was the robust 21-year-old Sandro who epitomised the combative and grown-up display most.
2. AC Milan are searching but soulless
Certainly Milan penned Tottenham back into their half for long periods, but it was all done with a simmering intensity that never looked like hitting boiling point. Their midfield bathed in possession for much of the match, but Milan were as limp as a pre-dipped hob-knob in the last third. Ibrahimovich and Pato in particular not only looked like strangers, but strangers who had just had a dust-up outside the town centre kebab shop.
What was most bizarre – looking on from the stands – was that the players seemingly consented to this aloof performance. It was truly striking to see the lack of frustration and disappointment on their faces as the final whistle blew. This was the most important game of their season, not a run out in the Emirates Cup.
3. The gloating can begin
Yesterday was a strange 24 hours for Spurs fans. Their arch-enemies Arsenal had just been excavated from the Champions League in excruciating circumstances… and yet the taunting texts had to stay in the drafts folder until they had advanced themselves. This dam of brimming smugness finally spilled out at the final whistle with a chorus of ‘Are You Watching Arsenal?’. Spurs can enjoy the much-anticipated and well-earned moment of getting one over on their rivals.
4. Ageless Seedorf still easy on the eye
Last night Clarence Seedorf continued to ooze class from every pore in his seemingly ageless body. Off the ball he has the positional sense to maximise his time and space once the ball arrives at his feet. And with the ball itself – to tentatively borrow a phrase from Andy Gray’s FIFA commentary – “he treats the ball as his friend”. He looks after it, keeps it close and then sends it on it’s way with hearty warmth. Seeing him leave Jenas on his backside after a sumptuous Cruyff turn was possibly the most aesthetically pleasing sight of the night.
5. Gomes is Gomes
You can’t take the clown out of the potentially world-class keeper and vice-versa. Watching the Brazilian jack-in-the-box out of his area and towards the feet of Pato was a sight to behold, mainly because of the reaction of Spurs fans around me. In a sequence of expressions they know all too well, they reacted to Gomes’ day-trip with contorted eyebrows, a squinting of both eyes and then a relieved exhaling of breath that created an audible hum around the ground. Interestingly enough, Gomes’ fluorescent orange kit exactly mirrored the outfits of the stadium stewards. Given that the main role of a steward is to prevent danger and create an atmosphere of calm, the comparison sadly ends there.
6. Crouch is still vilified by the foreign whistle
It’s old news but Peter Crouch still can’t catch a break with continental referees. More often than not it appears that in European and international competition, Crouch is being penalised for his genetics more than anything. All elbows and shoulders cascading down from a towering height – a cumbersome but fair challenge in the air from Crouch was regularly misconstrued by last night’s official as an attempt to land a coma-enducing blow on the opponent’s temple. Where Premier League refs can identify one from the other, foreign officials still treat the striker with unabated suspicion: ‘if he’s that much taller than his marker then he must be the villain. The unfeasibly lanky git has to be up to no good’.
7. Milan showed their theatrical side
No surprises here either. It’s painful to see diving on the television screen but to see it in the flesh is even more cripplingly depressing. The deception somehow seems more personal, the game being openly mugged of its decency in front of your very eyes. The main culprit last night was the former Spurs man Kevin Prince Boateng. People often talk of players going down ‘like they’ve been hit by a sniper’. Well, Kev looked like he had been hit by a nuclear Ghanaian-seeking warhead.
8. What a racket
The ‘special European night atmosphere’ – which Clive Tydsley seems to think Liverpool have exclusive rights on – was very much in evidence at White Hart Lane. Boy did they make a din and, happily for the majority of Spurs fans, there’s no chance of a running track likely to quell it in the near future. Perhaps the biggest cheer was reserved for a blast of ironic jeers directed at the away fans, who prematurely celebrated a Pato strike that flirted with the wrong-side of the side-netting. The sight of 30,000 fans gyrating their wrists back and forth in the air as one was a moving memory to cherish.
9. Bale is super but human
Throughout the night – most commonly after another Spurs attack damply fizzled away – chants of ‘Bale’ avalanched down the stands; a summoning of assistance from a higher being. Having his name in the squad – albeit on the bench – was like a soldier knowing he was going into combat with a bullet-proof vest on – insurance against the unthinkable had been delivered. That said Bale can’t slay the likes of Maicon when his fitness is as raw as was so visible in the latter-stages last night. Redknapp will have to borrow the cotton wall he normally saves for Ledley King and plaster it over the Welshman before the quarter-finals.
10. Redknapp comes of age
Whether you’re an English manager or not, leading a team to the last eight of the biggest competition in club football is stunning stuff for a Champions League debutant. The achievement is massive, especially bearing in mind that Tottenham were sitting in the bottom three when Harry Redknapp took the reigns two years ago (not that he’d want to bring that up. Ed.) It’s a fact that’s rolled out more than that chunky lad in the film Hook, but you’ll be hard pushed to find any previous Champions League quarter-finalists with a more dramatic turnaround.