THE ROSSONERI are out of the champions league. Despite totally outplaying Spurs at White Hart Lane, and having the ball cleared off the line by William Gallas, Milan failed to win on the night, and Spurs managed to park the bus in the closing stages to secure the win – sadly knocking the Rossoneri out despite a vintage performance from Clarence Seedorf.
The injuries had definitely taken their toll on Allegri’s squad, so in his 4-3-1-2 formation, Abbiati started in goal behind Abate, Nesta Thiago Silva and Jankulovski Whilst Boateng, Seedorf and Flamini formed the midfield 3. In attack, Robinho returned to the side, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Alexandre Pato (who returned after missing the Juve game with the flu)
The match started wih Milan determined to show the game was not over yet. With a fairly attack minded lineup, Milan may have been vulnerable, as Spurs threatened through Van der Vaart just a minute in, though his long range effort sailed wide. The best move early on came as Seedorf (playing the deepest role of the midfield 3) won a tackle and got the ball back before playing in Ibrahimovic with a 30 yard long ball! The Swede took it well, but Dawson did well to knock it out for a corner before Ibra could strike.
The game was end to end, Milan seemed much more in it than the first leg, but Spurs had started just as well as last time, the game was frantic, but Milan looked like a constant threat early on. Spurs came close to taking the lead after a Peter Crouch knockdown in to the box, but Abbiati did just enough despite taking a hit to the head. The difference between this game and the last game against spurs for Milan was absolutely staggering early on.
Milan were beginning to look like the better side with around quarter of an hour gone, and they began to pressurise Spurs. Ibrahimovic had a free kick from a tight angle around 30 yards out, however, his thumping effort was parried well wide by Heurelho Gomes for a corner. Finally the Rossoneri were beginning to look like themselves!
Spurs were playing a dangerous game, and after some poor communication between Spurs center back William Gallas, and his goalkeeper Heurhelo Gomes, Pato found himself with the ball out wide and Gomes in no man’s land! He just about managed to pull it back for Robinho, but Robinho’s shot was blocked! Nonetheless, it was heading towards the empty net, but William Gallas pulled off a stunning volley to clear it off the line.
Pato was the next to test Heurelho Gomes with around half an hour gone! After yet another interception from Clarence Seedorf, Ibrahimovic managed to play a through ball for Pato, who’d made an intelligent run in to the box to the left. The Brazilian got on the ball and struck it goalwards, but this time Gomes looked assure as he parried it clear.
Abate and Jankulovski’s pressing meant that Spurs’ wingers were forced to track back and minimised their threat, an ingenious decision by Allegri to push them higher up, Abate’s delivery had been excellent, and almost proved fruitful 5 minutes before the break, but as Gomes punched the ball, Boateng’s shot (following Ibrahimovic’s pass) was blocked by Modric as it sailed goalwards! Spurs were getting anxious.
The half ended with Milan on top but the scores remained level. Allegri’s tactics were spot on in the first half and the only thing missing was a Milan goal!
For the opening 10 minutes of the second half, the game remained the same. Spurs did look slightly more dangerous and energetic in the first, but it was still Milan in control, even though Tottenham seemed more likely to do something on the counter than they did in the first. This could partly be attributed to Boateng providing a bit less cover, meaning Lennon was 1 on 1 with Jankulovski much more often, but the game was still in the balance.
After a scramble in the box, Milan almost take the lead, but the spurs defenders and Heurelho Gomes did just enough to force the ball out. Milan still looked dangerous, but still hadn’t scored. At this point, Gareth Bale came off the bench to replace Rafael Van der Vaart for Spurs. Shortly after, Jermaine Jenas joined Bale on the field for Spurs (instead of Pienaar) whilst Allegri brought on Antonini to freshen up the defence (in place of Jankulovski)
Despite being the better side overall in the tie, time was running out, and the Rossoneri had only around 15 minutes left to find the goal. Massimiliano Allegri decided another change was needed, to bring the flow of the game back, so he brought on Alexander Merkel for Boateng. It almost paid dividens instantly! As the youngster played a superb reverse pass for Pato, but Pato’s shot went just wide much to Gomes’ relief as the ‘keeper had no chance of stopping it had it been on target.
With less than 5 minutes left Spurs had parked the bus. Milan had a corner and every single spurs player was behind the ball, frustratingly so. With time running out, Milan needed to get forward, but Spurs’ tactics were almost preventing them. As a last bid to get some energy and freshness in the middle, Allegri brought on Rodney Strasser for Mathieu Flamini (who had been booked) – but Spurs had pretty much shut down Milan’s system just to prevent them scoring at this point, you couldn’t blame them but it was very frustrating.
With only 3 minutes added time left, Milan were trying their hardest, but Spurs were running down the clock. Seedorf won the ball back in his own half, used some skill to beat a player and played in Ibrahimovic with minutes left. As Ibra layed it off, Robinho took aim and fired it goalwards, but one of the countless white shirts keep the ball out and nothing comes from the corner.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Spurs’ frustrating (but understandable) tactics at the end were enough to make time run out, and so Spurs went through winning the tie 1-0 overall thanks to the first leg win at the San Siro. Despite being the better team on the night, Milan couldn’t take advantage, and so, the champions league chase is over for another year.
Best Moment: When Gomes missed the ball (only for Robinho’s deflected effort to be cleared off the line)
Man of the Match: Clarence Seedorf – he was magnificent, he rolled back the years and his performance deserved so much more than to go out after a 0-0 draw
By Hefin Davies, Rossoneri Blog