THE ROSSONERI now face an almost impossible task in the return leg of the Champions League clash with spurs, after losing 1-0 at home to Tottenham. Spurs were the better side in the first half, as Harry Redknapp’s tactics were flawless, however the scores remained level. Milan had the better of the second half for the most part, but Tottenham delivered a crushing blow with around 10 minutes to go, scoring a breakaway goal to turn the game on its head. With one of the last kicks of the game, Ibrahimovic scored with a sensational overhead kick, but it was ruled out for a foul in the box.
Milan’s injury laden squad was boosted by the return of Ignazio Abate to face Spurs, meaning a back 4 of Abate, Nesta, Yepes and Antonini in front of Abbiati in goal, with Thiago Silva pushed forward in to the midfield 3 – alongside Gennaro Gattuso and Mathieu Flamini. In attack, Clarence Seedorf and Robinho were joined by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Spurs made a very good start to the game, and Milan were called in to action within minutes. Spurs fans claimed a penalty as the ball was flashed quickly across the box – only for the ball to strike Nesta’s upper arm, but no penalty was given, and given the position the ball struck, it would have been a harsh penalty anyway. In truth, Spurs were the better side for the first ten minutes, and were it not for Abbiati’s excellent reading of the game to punch clear a diagonal cross, Crouch may well have scored.
With just over quarter of an hour gone, Spurs’ system was working well, because they were exploiting Milan’s lack of width, and pressing all over – meaning Milan were struggling to create, and Spurs were still causing problems. Christian Abbiati was then forced off with concussion, which was a big blow after the Italian had made an excellent start to the game.
Approaching the half an hour mark, and finally Milan were beginning to settle – but still the Rossoneri had not managed to craft a real clear cut chance. Spurs on the other hand were losing influence, and had seemingly changed game plans since they’d only put 1 ball in to the box since Marco Amelia was brought on to replace Abbiati, which was not working very well for them as Milan were gaining more influence as the match progressed.
It was Spurs who were next to test the goalkeeper – this time Rafael Van der Vaart. Picking the ball up outside the box, the dutchman was able to take it on and shoot – but substitute goalkeeper Marco Amelia was more than up to the task, and was able to punch it wide for a corner (from which, nothing came) Spurs were allowed plenty of time on the ball by Milan, whilst the Rossoneri were given little to no time at all in possession, Tottenham were pressing well and Harry Redknapp had set his side up very well tactically, which was working brilliantly against Milan’s fairly narrow formation.
As the half drew to a close, Milan did finally create some half chances, firstly, Clarence Seedorf layed the ball off wide to Ignazio Abate, who took the ball forward before putting in an excellent cross – but Spurs managed to defend it well. Secondly, after some nice play from Clarence Seedorf, Robinho had the ball at the edge of the Spurs box, and played a brilliant ball straight across the face of goal – any touch would almost certainly have sent it in, but nothing came of it – and Spurs were noticably the better side at the end of the first half.
At half time, Massimiliano Allegri brought Alexandre Pato on for Clarence Seedorf – and Milan started the second half much better than they played for most of the first. Just moments in to the second half and the Rossoneri came close to taking the lead, a ball chipped in to the box by Gattuso was met by the head of the oncoming Mario Yepes, and forced a wondersave from Heurelho Gomes! It was also clear that the front 3 had all upped their work rate in the second half – and the difference was staggering.
With around 55 minutes on the clock, the Milan crowd was excited, but Mathieu Flamini was fortunate not to be sent off after a terrible two footed challenge on Vedran Corluka. Once again Milan were inched away from scoring – this time from a corner, as Mario yepes was again given a free run behind Peter Crouch, but the Colombian’s good header was met by an equally good save from Gomes, before William Gallas acrobatically managed to clear the ball away to safely.
Finally Milan were playing as the better side. It seemed Allegri’s decision to bring on Pato had really got the crowd going, and with the new found work rate of the attacking players, Milan were beginning to take control, and at last it looked as though it was Spurs were on the back foot trying to keep out Milan.
Milan were all over Spurs, but disaster struck around the 80th minute mark – as Milan conceded possession high up the field, Aaron Lennon had the ball with time and space to run at Milan. The Rossoneri had just two back, and as Peter Crouch hung back, Lennon took on (and beat) Mario Yepes before playing a simple square ball for the open Peter Crouch to tap in to an empty net against the run of play. A disastrous blow for Milan.
The goal had seemingly sucked the life out of Milan, and Spurs were the better side once more. In the dying seconds Robinho managed to secure a corner for Milan, and after some work outside the box, Nesta chipped it in to the box, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with an overhead kick! However The Rossoneri hearts were shattered – as the goal was disallowed for a foul in the box before the Swede’s excellent overhead kick. And that was the end of the game.
Best Moment: The nanoseconds after Ibrahimovic’s excellent overhead kick, which was then ruled out.
Man of the Match: hard to pick one for Milan tbh, maybe Thiago Silva
By Hefin Davies, Rossoneri Blog