Peter Crouch’s late winner has given Tottenham a terrific 1-0 away win at the San Siro in a fiery clash with Italian giants AC Milan on Tuesday.
While Crouch’s goal and the assist from Aaron Lennon should steal the headlines, the ill-discipline of AC Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso unfortunately took away some of the focus on Harry Redknapp’s men.
Gattuso was involved in several incidents in the opening leg of the first knockout stage tie, the first when he shoved Tottenham assistant manager Joe Jordan in the face during second half after Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini was lucky to avoid a red card for a two-footed lunge on Vedran Corluka.
Gattuso also tried to pick battles with Crouch and Rafael van der Vaart on the pitch. But it was when the final whistle went that the wound-up midfielder exploded, confronting former AC Milan striker Jordan again and appearing to head-butt the Tottenham number two.
He had to be restrained by teammates and calmed down before leaving the pitch, with UEFA sure to hit the former Italian international with a hefty ban.
Tottenham made a bright start to the match itself and could have had a penalty inside the first minute, but referee Stephane Lannoy denied suggestions from the Spurs players that defender Alessandro Nesta had handled Steven Pienaar’s cross.
AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri was forced into an early change when goalkeeper Christian Abbiati needed to be substituted after a clash with Peter Crouch, which saw on-loan custodian Marco Amelia given his chance.
The first half petered out with Milan particularly disappointing at home, but van der Vaart gave the game the nudge it needed early in the second when he attempted an audacious chip that only just sailed wide from the edge of the area.
Milan defender Mario Yepes had two headers well saved by Gomes while William Gallas made a vital goal-line clearance to deny a Milan side re-energized by the half-time introduction of Alexandre Pato.
Flamini’s lunge and the drama that followed re-ignited tensions again, before Spurs pushed men forward searching a late winner and got it.
A quick counter-attack saw Lennon gather the ball in his own half and embark on a delightful run towards goal.
The former Leeds United youth product then skipped the challenge of Yepes before he drew a man and centred for Crouch, who stroked the ball towards the far post and into the corner of the net.
It was a well-worked goal from a smart Tottenham side, who sat back but pressed forward when required.
Milan mounted late attempts at an equaliser, with Robinho going close while Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who was largely ineffectual – saw his sublime bicycle kick in the last minute of injury time ruled out for offside.
It meant Tottenham not only had an away goal to take back to England but also a victory, meaning a draw at White Hart Lane on March 10 will be enough to send Spurs into the Champions League quarter-finals in their first ever appearance in the competition.