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Tottenham hold firm to end Milan challenge

Tottenham Hotspur FC 0-0 AC Milan (agg: 1-0)
The home side survived some intense pressure from the seven-time winners to extend their debut campaign into the quarter-finals.

Tottenham hold firm to end Milan challenge
Tottenham hold firm to end Milan challenge ©UEFA.com

Tottenham Hotspur FC's dream debut in the UEFA Champions League goes on after they booked their progress to the quarter-finals with a scoreless home draw against AC Milan.

This stalemate provided quite a contrast with the goal feasts White Hart Lane had previously witnessed in the competition but the home supporters were not complaining at the final whistle after their side squeezed through thanks to Peter Crouch's solitary first-leg strike.

For Milan this is the third time in four seasons they have exited against Premier League opposition at this stage. They succeeded in blunting Spurs' hitherto prolific attack but could find no way past Heurelho Gomes at the other end, going no closer than a deflected Robinho effort that William Gallas cleared off the line in the first half.

"One of the biggest games in the history of the club" was how Harry Redknapp had described Milan's visit. Certainly White Hart Lane had not staged a more significant European tie since Tottenham won the UEFA Cup in 1984 and the opening moments suggested the home side were ready to produce the adventurous, attacking display their manager had promised.

In the second minute Steven Pienaar found Rafael van der Vaart in space 20 metres from goal but he poked wide. It then took a brave save from Christian Abbiati to stop the Dutchman capitalising on Peter Crouch's knockdown. Yet Milan soon began to assert themselves, passing and probing and, after 16 minutes, drawing the first save out of Gomes when Zlatan Ibrahimović arrowed in a free-kick from the left.

With the visitors dominating possession, Tottenham were showing little sign of the high-tempo attacking that characterised their group-stage efforts and, by the 25th minute, they had Gallas to thank for their aggregate lead still being intact.

When a long pass dissected the home defence, Pato rounded Gomes out on the left and from the byline played the ball back to Robinho in the box. He scuffed his shot, which struck Benoît Assou-Ekotto and was looping into the net until Gallas's intervention.

Massimiliano Allegri had described the first leg as a "strange game" and certainly Milan, with the ageless Clarence Seedorf pulling the strings in midfield, looked more like Serie A leaders here. Although Van der Vaart's free-kick hit the top of the net, the anxiety levels among the home fans rose again when Ibrahimović played in Pato on the left but Gomes foiled his near-post shot.

Tottenham stepped up a gear at the start of the second half, Van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon both delivering dangerous balls to the head of Crouch, whose far-post presence was a regular worry for Milan's defence. Yet the home defenders were working harder. They had a let-off in the 65th minute when Robinho forced a save from Gomes and then stabbed the loose ball wide in the ensuing scramble.

Other scares followed – Pato lashed a shot into the side netting, while Robinho drove a whisker over in added time – but for the Rossoneri there was no way through. Tottenham's fairy tale continues.