It wasn’t as beautiful as Barcelona or as sexy as bunga bunga but Spurs will be cock-a-hoop that they scraped through against AC Milan...
Tottenham legend Danny Blanchflower once said "The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom." For the neutral there was precious little style and plenty of boredom, but for Spurs fans there was more glory than Ron Jeremy could muster in a morning at the Playboy Mansion. For one night only the Spurs mantra ‘to dare is to do’ was replaced by ‘to panic and go through anyway’.
That was easily the worst game of football Spurs have been involved in this campaign. It was if they finally realised they were favourites to go through against exalted company. The Champions League virgins fumbled about the pitch while an Italian lothario patiently felt them up waiting for the opportunity to fuck them once and for all. But - to labour the analogy - no matter how many Bacardi breezers the experienced older gentleman shoved down their necks Spurs somehow tottered into a taxi with their collective hymen intact.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The upstarts from north London were meant to swat aside the aging aristocrats of AC Milan with attacking gusto. The three stooges at pitch side said as much. Adrian Chiles - a man who looks like his head has been panel beaten then covered in strips of bacon – claimed Spurs don’t know how to defend, Gareth Southgate nodded his unfortunate features in agreement and Marcel Desailly let out an inaudible high pitch squeak. With the faux opera music fading and the team news on the telly three questions came to mind.
Which Clarence Seedorf will turn up? The Dutch master who was integral to three European Cup wins or the confused old man who a fortnight ago wandered around the San Siro asking passers by if they were his children?
Which Zlatan will turn up? The greatest footballer YouTube highlight reels have ever seen or the big game bottler who never seems to do it on the big stage?
Gareth Southgate nodded his unfortunate features in agreement and Marcel Desailly let out an inaudible high pitch squeak.
Which Spurs will turn up? The world beaters who’ve been a breath of fresh air in this years Champions League or the wankers who’ve consistently broken their supporters hearts every few weeks for the last 50 years?
In the end Clarence was immense, playing in the holding role the excellent pundit and all round lovely bloke rolled back the years and was the source of much of AC Milan’s good work. Zlat was an ineffectual twat, either being off side or kicking people in the face. And despite threatening to fuck it up Spurs held firm as a cuntload of Londoners clenched their buttocks with the force of million crocodile clips.
The first half played out like you’d have expected the first leg to. Milan looked a cut above, dominating possession and the tempo. The experienced Euro masters probing while the young upstarts visibly shat themselves like a newborn baby. Berlusconi’s boys were dominant in every area except the score. They came closest when Robinho had his deflected shot saved off the line by Gallas. The little Brazilian had a ‘mare the last time he was at White Hart Lane in one of his last games for Man City. Usually you’re as likely to see Robinho’s sweat patches as Charlie Sheen’s employee of the month award, but tonight little Robson put a shift in and got scant reward for the rarely seen droplets of salty water gathering under his armpits. The only bright sparks for Spurs were the impressive Sandro breaking things up in midfield and Crouch/Van der Vaart doing their Quinn/Phillips tribute up top. Even if there’s no silverware for the pair at the end of the season Crouch should at least have a remix of ‘Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants’ penned for him. He deserves it for services to robotics alone.
After being battered for the three quarters of an hour Spurs chances of progression were like the blind bloke showing off his photography skills during the adverts. Would pointing their hopes in the right direction and hoping for the best be enough or would they spend the next 45 minutes with their collective thumb over the lens? I shouldn’t have expect the pundits to shed any light on it. Ham face Chiles didn’t get too involved in the discussion choosing instead to point and laugh at a nervous crowd, Southgate spoke sense while his looks committed retina-cide on those watching at home, and Desailly agitated canines across Europe every time he opened his mouth.
How long do you have to have played the game to mistake repeating ‘gung ho’, ‘middle of the park’ and ‘get amongst it’ every three minutes as punditry?
With the start of the second half we were treated to Andy Townsend’s razor sharp analysis that only a previous owner of a tactics truck could provide. The cliché machine was doing his best to state the obvious during the first half but really stepped it up after the break. How long do you have to have played the game to mistake repeating ‘gung ho’, ‘middle of the park’ and ‘get amongst it’ every three minutes as punditry? The most insightful thing he came out with was ‘that’s a bad place to give away a free kick’ when a free kick was given away somewhere not very good.
As the half progressed the intriguing if not entertaining contest continued to turn all the pre game certainties on their head. A spritely Milan played like the home team and Spurs defended like the Italian team. Just as Tottenham looked like they might buckle under the pressure Harry played his trump card, a half fit Gareth Bale. After the mauling he gave Inter it had been hoped the Welshman would complete the set against the Rossoneri. For half an hour I day dreamed idly about a display that inspired a city wide holiday when Milanese kids wander the streets wearing monkey masks terrorising the elderly who shuffle about dressed as right backs. He didn’t and Balloween exists only my head for another year. Not that it mattered in the end. Spurs held on, Milan went out and the crowd taunted Arsenal in what turns out to be a wonderful night for Tottenham.
It’s strange how a few toots on a whistle can change the complexion of a game. Nervy and shaky are instantly transformed into resilient and steadfast. In a game that Spurs were constantly under the cosh became a mature European performance. They’re in the hat for the quarter-finals of the Champions League with another chance at glory, when all’s said and done I’m sure Danny Blanchflower would be happy with that.
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