Come now, really – did anyone in their wildest dreams expect that? Really? That was not just a victory away to AC Milan, it was an absolute ruddy masterclass in the much-vaunted but rarely achieved art of Navigating Fiendishly Difficult Away Legs in the Champions League. Novices? Fie upon the very suggestion. Our lot look like they were born to play in this competition.First whistle to last our heroes stuck to the drill with a discipline that had me reaching for the whisky in disbelief. Like some super-computer sucking up knowledge at a rate of knots, ‘Arry demonstrated that the lessons of San Siro visits past have been learned, the days of “Just f*ckin’ run about” a distant memory as he adopted the most unlikely role, for one night at least, of tactical genius. Accordingly, our heroes carefully put to one side the gung-ho all-action approach they have spent the past couple of years perfecting, and instead donned monocles and mortar boards for a display of quite astounding maturity and bloody-mindedness. Witness Woodgate, not a cobweb in sight, clearing from a prone position on the floor in the final seconds; Modders orchestrating keep-ball in the dying stages; Corluka bearing a blood-stained ice-pack around his mangled foot; all of which left the Milanese stomping around with angrier and angrier scowls, like over-sized nursery kids, until one felt they might tear off their own limbs and beat each other with them, which admittedly very few nursery kids do these days.
Roll of Honour
Ah the good folk of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Heroes the ruddy lot of them. Sandro and Sergeant Wilson charged around to the strains of 90s one-hit techno wonder Kicks Like A Mule, stomping up to Milanese attacking types and positively screeching into their faces “Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in!” Not only did those two patrol the centre like Robocop and his less frivolous twin brother, but they also showed quite remarkable discipline in restraining themselves from diving in at any point, and avoiding the concession of too many unnecessary fouls.
For his next trick Gomes will presumably travel through time and reappear two days ago, but at the San Siro he settled simply for defying the laws of physics, those two second half saves worthy of Banks and tantamount to goals.
VDV’s every touch was a thing of beauty, the very antithesis of the Neanderthalic buffoon in the opposite ranks, for whom the ball was but a secondary detail. Too easy it is to forget VDV’s disguised chip that floated an inch wide while just about everyone in the stadium and the watching world was looking towards the far post area into which most mortals would have aimed a cross.
Lennon’s destruction of the left-back was almost inhumane (although not in a Matthieu Flamini sort of way), while out on the left the remarkably similar-looking BAE and Pienaar beavered back and forth indefatigably.
The back-four barely put a foot wrong, Daws looking every inch an international, and when all-out assault forced the reshuffle Woodgate slotted in with minimal fuss, and the drill was resumed. The other substitutes did precisely what every good wholesome substitute ought to do, Modric lovingly stroking the thing around for the final ten minutes and Kranjcar poking little triangles, as the enraged Italians looked for something, anything, to kick.
And the finish. Good grief for one horrible moment it looked like Crouch’s legs had assumed minds of their own and were about to sabotage the blighter’s moment, but he avoided tripping over himself in an unholy tangle of limbs – just – and the day was ours.
And then it got better. Lest any further evidence be needed that his shaggy mane hides only a great big vacuum between his ears, Gattuso then ignored the likes of resident lightweights such as Pav, Modders and Gomes, and made a beeline for one J. Jordan Esquire. “Nobody wants to see that,” droned Stelling on Sky Sports, rather missing a trick, for Jordan vs Gattuso would be one of the fastest-selling pay-per-view events in television history, even if it would only be a matter of seconds before Jordan tore the little man apart with his bare hands and then chewed on him with what teeth he has left.
And then it got better still, when all-round good egg and renowned gentleman of the game, Graeme Souness, was swamped within his own bile during the post-match natter and spat out a description of Gattuso as “just a little dog”. Ooh, you could almost reach and touch the hatred.
ne or two colleagues have pointed out that the tie is far from over and other such guff, only to be confronted by that most wonderful riposte, The Grin of Delight. Frankly, right now, I don’t care what happens tomorrow, next week or any time hence. After the turgid dross and embarrassment of the 90s and 00s, the last 18 months have provided enough lilywhite glory nights to last me a lifetime. AC Milan 0 – 1 Spurs. Ding dong.