The last time Heurelho Gomes played at San Siro he was sent off after just eight minutes. But the Tottenham Hotspur FC goalkeeper put bad memories behind him in a show-stopping performance that ensured his side secured a 1-0 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg win at AC Milan.
Tottenham had given a dominant first-half display before Milan came back at them after the break, only for the Rossoneri to be caught cold by a devastating 80th-minute counterattack involving Aaron Lennon and goalscorer Peter Crouch. However, the hosts would have been two goals to the good had it not been for the outstanding Gomes.
The Brazilian international made two fine stops from Mario Yepes on 50 and 60 minutes, the first being a remarkable combination of sharp reflexes and acrobatic agility. "He made two world-class saves but he's a top keeper and he's showed what a great keeper he's going to be for us in the future as well," said defender Jonathan Woodgate – on as a substitute for his first appearance in 15 months – while Rafael van der Vaart was equally impressed. "He was our best player," the forward said. "It's great to have him, he's not scared, he came out and took everything and is really important for us."
Gomes himself was more modest about his man-of-the-match contribution, telling UEFA.com: "I made a couple of good saves." Even so, the 30-year-old was glad to lay to rest the San Siro ghost that had haunted him since his previous visit. After he was dismissed early against FC Internazionale Milano in the group stage, Tottenham went four down before clawing their way back to 4-3.
"I tried to forget about getting sent off here but it helped me focus on playing well," said Gomes. "The last time I played here it was not easy for me, leaving my team-mates with just ten men – it's hard enough playing here with 11 – so tonight was a much better night and we deserved this great win.
"I made a couple of good saves and I think we deserved to win because we played much better in the first half and in the second we defended very well. It's not easy to play at San Siro, which is why we had to stay focused for the whole game."
In the pre-match build-up much had been made of how Tottenham's missing personnel might affect their chances against the Serie A leaders, but Spurs keep rising to the challenge in this, their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign and look favourites to progress on 9 March.
"We are growing in confidence all the time because we finished first in the group and now we have come here and won," continued former PSV Eindhoven player Gomes. "This sort of result will strengthen our belief to keep going. We always knew we could do well in this competition because we have a great squad.
"We can rotate our players now: tonight we lost Gareth Bale and Luka Modrić only came on in the second half but the lads who started did great. Before the start of the campaign we thought back to last season when we finished fourth in the Premier League and that made us realise we can go far in the Champions League."
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