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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tottenham v AC Milan

A mate of mine (lets call him James) was surprised that anyone saw the first leg 0-1 win - for Tottenham over AC Milan - as a shock. He told me Milan were a poor side, that Italian football is a dying art and tonight would be easy. He was wrong; it wasn't easy, and that's down to three things he forgot (or dismissed) - history, heritage and experience. That surprises me, because as a Liverpool fan, he must know how important those three attributes can be for a club.

Manchester United are not a great side currently but they are able to win games purely for these reasons - their aura or "who they are"- and they could win the title this season. Their experience helps them in the big games and for the big run-ins. Spurs are only the 5th best side in England - why should we assume they are better than the great AC Milan, a team topping Serie A, with an attacking line-up of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Alexandre Pato? They shouldn't, but much of the press (and James) assumed just that.

As I feared they might be, Milan were better than Spurs in an edgy, nervous game tonight. They had more purpose, they had more of the ball, and they looked the more likely to score. They didn't score, and we're through - an achievement I'm very proud of -  but I think we were slightly lucky, and it helps get my point across.

It had taken Spurs 10 years to beat Arsenal in the league, even though we were considered the better side on a number of occasions. Manchester United always beat us, even though we're often the better side, either in form or in the match, and we have similar records at Anfield & Stamford Bridge. So much of that is because of a mental block against more successful clubs, but tonight we hung on against a team who have won 7 European Cups and 9 League titles since Spurs last won the latter - that's a big deal.

It's normally exciting, fighting back from 3-0 down to Young Boys, 4-0 down to Inter, scoring 25 goals in the previous 9 matches, but this was an occasion for Spurs to show that they have other depths to their game against a bigger, more experienced & more successful club. We're there in the last 8 & we've beaten both Milan sides on the way. That's huge; please don't underestimate it.

Who next?


p.s. How good was Sandro? Gem.

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