3-0 down after 28 minutes against Young Boys, Tottenham Hotspur looked out of their depth before even qualifying among Europe’s elite. Fast forward 6 months and Spurs have come of age, knocking out the second most successful team in the history of the European Cup.
Along their journey Spurs have constantly reminded fans and critics how they have grown, averaging 3 goals per game throughout the group stages, beating the holders Inter Milan and even rivaling Barcelona and local rivals Arsenal with the best free flowing attacking football of this season’s tournament, which has earned them numerous plaudits for their verve and style.
The victory over Milan was passion and commitment triumphing over tactics, but more importantly it was a Tottenham performance not usually accredited to this Spurs side. With attacking options in abundance, it was in fact a resolute, determined and most importantly experienced defensive performance that propelled Tottenham into what was unimaginable territory only two seasons ago, a Champions League Quarter Final tie. Spurs progression had a lot to do with the performance of William Gallas. Gallas was a defensive rock, and despite entering White Hart Lane having played for Tottenham’s fiercest rivals Chelsea and Arsenal, all this will be forgotten after his performance, on this glorious European night at ‘The Lane’, the experienced, powerful and impressive Gallas became a ‘hero’, the goal line clearance, the in sync partnership with Michael Dawson and his commanding of the back line had Laurent Koscielny taking vigorous notes. The ex-Gunners captain showed the red half of north London what was needed in their embarrassingly one sided defeat to Barcelona the previous night.
Dawson and Gallas will take great credit but the world of football was already familiar with their talents. Being at home in the Champions League last sixteen, against European giants Milan, the stage was set for someone to step up and earn their lily whites; and Sandro Ranieri duly obliged. Ridiculed, booed, and his talents questioned by the media and football fans alike (Spurs fans included), Sandro silenced them all with a true ‘unsung hero’ performance. The 21 year old Brazilian shielded the defensive line, broke up the play and was a key factor in Milan hardly registering a decent effort all night despite their 59% possession.
Admittedly Arsenal fans will argue it wasn’t a Milan of Van Basten, Guillt and Maldini. This was a boasted that boasted the reliably toothless forward that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Spurs reject Kevin-Prince Boateng, the same player who made less than 20 appearances in two seasons and was loaned out to Portsmouth. Still nothing should, or will, be taken away from this uncharacteristic dogged defensive victory for Spurs.
How far can this Tottenham side go? All the fans will be crossing their fingers for Schalke in the next round and who can blame them; this may be their only time in the competition and they want to go as far as they can, however, overcoming Manchester United, Chelsea or even Real Madrid isn’t above this Tottenham side who have shown just about every quality in this remarkable, yet unpredictable campaign, and it could very well be the infamous chant of “Yids” echoing around Wembley come May 28th.