Champions League - Spurs win in Milan

Tue, 15 Feb 21:45:00 2011

Peter Crouch's 80th-minute winner gave Tottenham a famous 1-0 victory over Italian giants Milan at the San Siro in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League encounter.

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The England striker gleefully sidefooted home from Aaron Lennon's cross after the winger had led a lightning-quick counter attack with Spurs under late pressure from their hosts at the other end.

Spurs had enjoyed the better of the opening period before weathering a storm after the break from a resurgent Milan, who were geed up by the ever-feisty Gennaro Gattuso.

Gattuso's enthusiasm eventually boiled over when he shoved Joe Jordan in the face on the touchline midway through the second half, before following up that moment of madness with an even more ill-advised headbutt on the Spurs assistant boss after the final whistle.

UEFA are sure to investigate those disgraceful scenes but Mathieu Flamini, whose two-footed assault on Vedran Corluka that left the Croat on crutches, is likely to escape further punishment as the referee saw the former Arsenal man's second-half challenge, only to deem it worthy of just a booking.

It was a bad-tempered end to an otherwise entirely satisfactory night for Spurs, who will now take a one-goal advantage back with them to White Hart Lane for the second leg in three weeks time, with a place in the quarter-finals the prize in the club's first foray into the competition.

Deprived of a number of first-choice players, most notably in midfield where Gareth Bale and Jermaine Jenas were missing and Luka Modric was fit enough only for a place on the bench, Harry Redknapp was forced into sending out a weakened side.

Yet the Spurs boss had still promised his side would attack Milan, and those fans who had travelled from North London were not disappointed as their team raced out of the blocks.

From the first whistle, Spurs were on the front foot, as they got in Milan's face and dictated the tempo of the game.

Before even a minute was on the clock, they had a big penalty shout turned down after the ball struck Alessandro Nesta on the arm in the box, but it was Crouch who was the main focus of Spurs' attack during the first half.

The lanky striker proved a handful in the air for Milan's centre-half partnership of Nesta and Mario Yepes, but he also dropped to the far post with regularity where he won headers with ease against the smaller full-backs Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini.

Spurs dominated the opening exchanges, with Lennon getting the better of Antonini on more than one occasion, and Rafael van der Vaart pulling the strings in midfield, yet ultimately they lacked an end product.

Van der Vaart went closest to breaking the deadlock, the Dutchman bringing a smart save out of Marco Amelia - a first-half replacement for the concussed Christian Abbiati - with a well-struck effort from outside the box.

Milan came back into the game after the break as Gattuso's constant harrying and the introduction of Alexandre Pato lifted the Rossoneri's first-half lethargy.

Yepes twice had great opportunities to break the deadlock with headers that Heurelho Gomes superbly kept out, the chances coming either side of an ugly incident on the sidelines which saw an enraged Gattuso, who wanted a yellow card shown to Steven Pienaar, raise his hands to Jordan's face.

With the crowd almost as incensed much as Gattuso, Milan fed off the atmosphere and poured forward looking for a goal to take to London with them, but it did not arrive.

Instead, it was left to Crouch to settle the contest, finishing off a rapier-like counter led by Lennon, who jinked inside Yepes before squaring for his unmarked team-mate.

There was still time for some late drama as first Robinho saw an effort saved at point blank by Gomes following some miscommunication with Michael Dawson and then Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an injury-time goal correctly disallowed.

But Spurs held out to make it a night to remember and go one better than the last time they were in Milan, when they were beaten 4-3 by Milan's city rivals Internazionale, despite a stirring late comeback.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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