Get Ready For 90 Minutes Of Torture Tottenham Fans!
April 12th 2007, the day before my 28th birthday was meant to be a momentous occasion and a return to the glory glory nights at White Hart Lane. It was the second leg of a quarter final of the UEFA Cup between us and then holders of the trophy Sevilla. We’d lost the first leg in Spain 2-1 having opened the scoring in the first minute and while we had a lot to do that priceless away goal gave us all hope at home we could turn it around. With the likes of Keane and Berbatov playing at the time we knew we had the fire-power to get back into the game. It was widely accepted at the time whoever won this tie would be favourites to lift the famous European trophy.
As much as I’ve tried that night just won’t leave my memory. Just as the defeats against United and City after being 3-0 up have ingrained themselves into my subconscious missing the chance of European glory that season has done the same. It was one of the final times Europe’s secondary competition was a competition clubs wanted to win, now it’s the Europa League most people don’t even want to be in it, myself included. If I had the choice if we failed to qualify for the Champions League I’d rather we threw a couple of games to make sure we weren’t in that next season. Sunday lunchtime kick-offs, Thursday nights on Channel 5 and the possibility of up to 21 games to win the bloody thing. No thank you.
My fear is 4 years, 2 managers, 1 trophy, star strikers leaving, 2 points from 8 games, a champions league campaign and with only 3 of the same players that played that night have we learnt anything that’ll guarantee I won’t have that same feeling again? Not many Champions League betting sites are backing Milan tonight, but you just never know in football. The one thing in football is you can’t guarantee anything unfortunately but just as the game 4 years ago was effectively over within 8 minutes of kick-off we still managed to get a draw which would be enough tonight. That’s all I ask. It’s not too much is it? An Inter Milan style demolition would be fantastic or a quick fire 3-0 lead by half time so I can relax (as much as a Spurs fan can ever relax), but if they’re not possible any type of draw will do me.
I stand on the side of the fence that suggests getting back into the top 4 is the most important thing this season and any champions league games are to be enjoyed for what they are, an adventure, but when it comes down to it I never want us to lose. If I could detach myself from proceedings as I can with other football clubs it’s obvious what’s more important to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club PLC but then if I could do that I guess I wouldn’t bother writing this or support a team at all. I wouldn’t remember being cheated in Spain by a terrible refereeing decision just before Kanouté scored a penalty to give Sevilla an undeserved first leg lead or Tainio’s own goal in the first few minutes of the return game.
Going through is all that matters tonight, losing is not an option.
Every time we slip up in the league we’ve had Europe’s elite competition to fall back on. Sure defeats hurt, especially at places like West Ham, Bolton and Blackpool but they’ve been largely overshadowed by big wins against both Milan teams and easy victories over Bremen and FC Twente. As much as Allegri wants to discuss how we’re not among the strongest teams in Europe or Robinho wants to concentrate on the physical side of our game (I’m trying to remember any Spurs players flying into two footed challenges or head-butting coaching staff) we’ve already out-played them once and can do it again. History and statistics are with us too:
- Only once has a team that lost the fist leg at home qualified for the next round of the champions league
- Spurs have averaged 3.3 goals per home game in this seasons champions league
- AC Milan have averaged 1 goal per away game
Crucial in the first leg was Aaron Lennon, as Clarence Seedorf confirmed to the BBC, and he has been during the entire competition for us this season. He has the joint top assists with 5, including putting Crouch’s winner in the San Siro on a plate. Tonight will be no different if we’re to be successful. The wider we play the better with regards to attacking because of Milan’s full backs pushing on and the space they leave behind them. Width and Pace. No different to how we played in the San Siro.
Expect Milan to come out quickly, closing us down more than they did and hoping to get an early goal to unsettle us and put the fans on edge. If they come to White Hart Lane trying to play slow, intricate football they’ll go home knowing they’re not in the draw for the next round. However, don’t expect many first half goals from either team. Milan have only managed one goal in the first half of their four games this season while 13 of our 19 goals have come in the second half. Last minute winner anyone? Not sure my heart could take that.
Everything points to us winning tonight and doing so fairly easily. Milan know they have to score a goal, we’re a team built with pace for the counter attack and we’ve got home advantage. If only football was that easy though.
I said after the first leg I thought it was the best overall 90 minutes a Spurs side had played since the 1991 FA Cup semi final closely followed by the Carling Cup final win over Chelsea in 2008 and I stand by that. It was also a dire and largely petulant performance by the entire AC Milan team. Those two variables are unlikely to occur again and no matter what you think of this Milan side it’s full of international players who all have one thing in common, their hatred of losing. The Spurs team by contrast doesn’t have that need to win at all costs installed in them yet. It might come in time but recent performances and results show they’ve still got some way to go.
The overriding difference between 2007 and 2011 though is not only the lead we have but also the fact the players know they can win the game. They’ve shown already this season they can beat any team on their day, Inter Milan and Arsenal to name just two. They know they’ve beaten the team they face tonight in their own backyard and while only by the smallest of margins the performance deserved much more. Belief in football is such a massive thing. Just look at our performances every time we visit Old Trafford. We’re one or two nil down before kick off and until we get 3 points up there it’ll always be the same. It’s no coincidence our recent record against Chelsea at home is good after breaking the jinx they had over us in 2006.
Going into the first leg I’m sure some of the players looked at the likes of Seedorf and Ibrahimovich with slight trepidation having previously only watched them on TV or played against them on FIFA. Having pitted themselves against these guys now they know what to expect. Any aura those players had around them before that game should now be gone and players like Dawson, Modric, Lennon and Crouch will be looking to dictate the game to them and not the other way around.
Will Bale or van der Vaart play? I would expect so but for how long is debatable. Personally I’d like to see them both start and we attempt to finish the game before the hour mark so they can be replaced if needs be. I don’t want them to be coming on in the hope they can turn things around if we need them to, although Bale’s pace could be too much for Milan’s ageing legs late on, but vdV must start if he’s able to. We look such a better side, especially in Europe, when he’s on the pitch. The difference between the first half in the San Siro and the second was like chalk and cheese. With vdV we controlled the game and took it to them but without him they got more of the ball and we resorted to defending deep and attacking on the break. I’d rather spend more time doing the former than the latter tonight if that’s ok.
That’s all I have to say on the matter. If we lose, then so be it but please don’t let it be like 2007 or Young Boys / Inter away. At least make AC fight for their victory.
Play smart, play quick and play to win. Giving 100% is all we fans ask because whatever happens tonight will live with us forever.
PS. If you’re going to tonight’s game the club have asked everyone to wear all white for some reason. Apparently that’ll make the atmosphere better. If you don’t have a white coat and don’t want to freeze your balls off some fans are also trying to organise a ticker tape reception for the players so if you want to take part in that tear up a copy of a paper and throw it in the air, but not in the direction of Gomes in case he gets injured.
Submitte by THFC1882
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