Peter Crouch’s goal 10 minutes from time handed Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 win over below-par AC Milan in a bad-tempered Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who will miss the second leg after a booking, appeared to headbutt Spurs assistant manager Joe Jordan in a touchline fracas after the final whistle. Spurs, who lost 4-3 at the San Siro to Milan’s city rivals Inter in the group stage, were the better side in the first half and Milan in the second, and England striker Crouch netted slightly against the run of play following winger Aaron Lennon’s swift break and pass.
“I thought we deserved to win, we limited them to a few chances. We were the better side…defended magnificently,” Crouch told Sky Sports.
“It was a great win, it’s a fantastic achievement to beat Milan in the San Siro but the job is not finished.”
The Premier League side bossed the early exchanges amid heavy rain inside the San Siro cauldron and had an early shout for a penalty turned down when the fit-again Rafael van der Vaart’s effort appeared to strike Alessandro Nesta on the arm.
Crouch and Lennon caused seven-times winners Milan all sorts of problems and the Serie A leaders lost goalkeeper Christian Abbiati after 18 minutes with a head injury. He could miss the second leg in London on March 9.
Abbiati went to hospital for checks on concussion and his replacement Marco Amelia had to touch a fierce Van der Vaart shot over the bar after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had fired a freekick wide in Milan’s first meaningful chance.
Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, with several midfielders such as Andrea Pirlo injured and the likes of Antonio Cassano ineligible, sent out a defensive-looking team with centre back Thiago Silva in midfield and in the first half it showed.
He threw on Brazil forward Alexandre Pato at the break but Spurs again came the closest early on in the second half with Van der Vaart’s superb chip drifting wide although Milan’s Mario Yepes then had two headers well-saved by Heurelho Gomes.
The hosts then grew hugely in confidence as the game became spicy with Milan’s Mathieu Flamini and Gattuso living up to their combative images before Crouch struck with a crisp finish.
Milan thought they had equalised late in stoppage time but Ibrahimovic’s spectacular overhead strike was ruled out for a push.