Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not Enough2011, it could be. - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough 2011, it could be. - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

2011, it could be.

You could feel the relief around White Hart Lane.

As the final whistle sounded, even Harry Redknapp could afford a smile.

His team had done it, albeit in the least Tottenham-like fashion possible.

There can’t have been many people who saw a goalless draw beforehand.  A game involving a Spurs side who ran rampant in the group stages with full-flowing attacking football, using width so effectively both home and away.

Well they were playing Italian opposition.

Yet, a Milan team packed with unpredictable flair promised goals. The mercurial talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Alexandre Pato and Kevin Prince-Boateng had neutrals purring for a high-scoring encounter, coupled with the talents of Tottenham’s very own potent strike-force, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon.

So naturally none of them would grace the score-sheet come ten o’clock.

Not for the want of trying though, Crouch had two good chances to register; Van Der Vaart came close on three separate occasions whilst Pato and Robinho had Milan’s best chances, the latter denied by a superb William Gallas clearance from under his own crossbar.

However in the aftermath of the mouth-watering pallet of attacking outlets failing to deliver, it was the defences that became the flavour of the evening. As if to say “don’t forget about us”, Tottenham’s back-four were as strong as they’ve been all season. Gallas and captain Michael Dawson, formed a defensive barricade the on-looking Fabio Capello would have been proud of. As the England boss was shown in the stand, memories of his famous Milan defence including Franco Baresi and Paulo Maldini sprung to mind.

Could this be the same Tottenham that conceded three times to struggling Wolves at the weekend?

It was, yet from looking fragile on Sunday to looking rock-solid on Wednesday, the difference was there for all to see.

Obviously, the enhanced steel came from not playing so openly. At Molineux, Spurs were geared for goals, and got three of them. Against Milan, Redknapp’s side were resolute and ventured forward on the counter rather than taking the game to their Italian counterparts.

It worked though, as uncharacteristic as it was his side’s battling success came as a welcome change for Redknapp.

He certainly would have been pleased with his midfield’s effort. Their European adventure has become associated with the cavalier approach of their dynamic wingers, Lennon and Gareth Bale, the creativity and nous of Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric.

Not so much the workman-like ruthlessness of Sandro.  

In The Times, I saw the young Brazilian had earned a rating of five. I’m not sure what game the particular paper’s representative was watching, but I suggest he watches the one everyone else saw, again.

Sandro was immense, his energy was relentless and his work off the ball was exemplary. A stat provided by Opta, showed how effective the 21 year-old was in breaking up Milan’s attacks. The ex-Internacional midfielder won all eight of the tackles he attempted; only four players have won more in a Champions League game this term. That in itself, speaks volumes of his performance and the importance his contribution had on the result.

From watching the London club’s European adventure unfold, comparisons are starting to draw to Liverpool’s Champions League winning season in 2005. That year The Reds were a completely different side when they lined up in Europe. In the league, they were abject and unimpressive. Yet when midweek came around, when Anfield was basked in floodlight and The Kop was rocking, they looked galvanised. Gerrard’s infamous goal against Olympiakos will be remembered by many a Sky viewer, Andy Gray’s (lest we forget) “You beauty” remark will find its way on t-shirts for years to come. Rafa Benitez’s troops went on to defeat Chelsea in the semi-finals in a performance similar to Tottenham’s, 1-0 on aggregate.

Spurs may be in contention for a Champions League spot for the rest of the league campaign, but you get the feeling Europe is slowly becoming Redknapp’s and the fans main priority.

And as we were reminded yesterday, that particular season for Liverpool was associated with a certain goal-line clearance from a one Mr Gallas.

He may not have benefited from it six years ago, but maybe, just maybe, he will this time.

After all, Tottenham do enjoy years with 1 at the end of them.

James Shipp

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