After the humiliating capitulation at Fulham in the Cup there followed four pretty hard looking fixtures for Spurs, if they played like that in them then that would be it, no top 4 place, no Champions League glory nights.
Blackburn away, Bolton at home, Sunderland away and the Milan in Milan, four wins, four gritty wins, four victories that Spurs haven’t done in many a year, never mind back-to-back. And it all culminated last night with a glorious display at the San Siro.
Left bereft of the attacking flair of the likes of Bale and Modric – who was on the bench – with ‘Arry saying his only two fit central midfielders being Palacios and Sandro and therefore seemingly ruling out either Pienaar or Kranjcar moving inside, there was an air of despondency. All talk of taking a defeat if an away goal was scored. ‘Arry talked about going for it because Spurs aren’t a team to go there for a nil nil but with two defensive midfielders in there would they have the personnel?
Well they did go for it, first part of the first half they were all over Milan. Van der Vaart was buzzing, Crouch was all over their defence and the Corluka and Lennon partnership down the right was destroying the Milan fullback Antonini. Should have been an early – inside the first minute – penalty when Nesta blocked Pienaar’s cross, ref had a clear view of it, not the last thing he got wrong.
What a difference from the last visit to this stadium, Spurs completely bossing the game not allowing Milan anything compared to being four down, a man light and being completely outclassed. With the midfield pairing working, because they did a job that was asked of them, a simple job of stop the opposition and give the ball to the flair players, either out wide, where Corluka and Lennon were providing some good balls which Crouch kept winning or to van der Vaart.
They were getting their foot into everything, making Milan make mistakes and give away possession. The one who was on the end of much of Palacios and Sandro’s good work was Seedorf who was completely nullified and getting it in the neck from the stands. It was highlighted when Palacios harried him from en yards inside the Spurs’ half to ten yards inside Milan’s without giving the Dutchman a chance to offload the ball. No surprise when he didn’t appear after the break. The last two games could be the making of Sandro at the club.
After that break with the introduction of Pato Milan did up their game, they were far more in it and a more cohesive unit but still weren’t exactly scintillating. Gomes finally had something to do, after very little in the first 45 and he did it well. Obviously he’d got his errors out of the way with the goal against Bolton and the histrionics and fannying about with the Sunderland game, here he was just about the saves, two game savers from Yepes.
No it was down to the ref for the howlers. Famini’s criminal two footed lunge – it wasn’t a tackle – on Corluka, which saw the fullback carried off and later see him hobbling around on crutches, should have been a straight red, again there can be no reason why it wasn’t as the ref had a clear view. Then Gattuso heated up his little disagreement with Joe Jordan, resulting in the Italian pushing Joe in the neck/face…more to come later.
The first part of that meant a replacement was needed for Corluka, but with Hutton disappearing here was no available right-back on the bench so we were greeted with the great sight of Woodgate making his return to first team action, Gallas shifting to the fullback role.
Gattuso, who should have been off after his altercation with Jordan, was back at it having a push at Crouch. The Italian runt had been fouling Crouch all night, luckily the English striker is smarter than your average footballer and a bit of a phlegmatic character so he doesn’t really retaliate just laughs and smiles, gives the odd retort which just winds up a pillock like Gattuso. Funnily he was finally carded when Pienaar caught more of him than he did of the Spurs’ player.
So with Spurs dropping back, van der Vaart was replaced with Modric and it was more a conventional midfield five as the little Croat fought and harried just like the two beside him but of course with that bit more finesse, he has a great ability to ride a challenge, keeping the ball and getting an extra yard away from his opponent.
While Milan were looking more dangerous Sandro blocked yet again, laid it off to Modric who just got his dinked pass to Lennon who was off and gone, only two Milan players back and they were all at sea. Lennon left the first flat on his arse, which dragged to other towards him, ball squared to Crouch who was now all alone and a swing of the long right leg and it’s one nil.
Milan piled on but Spurs weren’t for breaking, when Palacios or Sandro didn’t get in the way there was Woodgate, Dawson, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto or Gomes. Each one doig what it took to preserve the lead, fighting for the team. Yes once that wall was broken, ball was in the back of the net, Ibrahimovic finally did something but in doing so he pushed Dawson, so blatant that the ref saw it, added to that as with most of the night Ibrahimovic was offside.
This was a great performance, a great and well deserved victory, overall a team performance where everyone stood up and was counted, no shirkers, no hiders.
But it’s only half time…
Now to those final scenes Gattuso versus Joe Jordan. Only one winner there if it had gone any further, you know if Joe had removed his teeth as well as his specs.
My dad saw Jordan’s debut for Leeds, way back in the day, he mentions a a certain off the ball elbow with hushed tones. Thankfully though Joe kept his head which made Gattuso look even worse. Graeme Souness’ dismissive description of the Italian at the end was priceless..
He was not the best player – a little dog at best. He spent the whole night fouling Crouch and backing him into him…Gattuso’s a dog. I just wish now he could have 10 minutes in a room alone with Joe Jordan. Actually, it wouldn’t take that long, make it five minutes. Graeme Souness