By JOHN BOSCHINI
For Harry Redknapp and Tottenham, the club's first-ever knockout match in the Champions League couldn't have gone any better with Spurs edging AC Milan, 1-0, at the San Siro. Peter Crouch was the hero for the English side, as the lanky forward scored his third goal in the Champions League this season.
Both teams fought the rainy conditions from the outset. Tottenham controlled possession early on but a speculative chip from Rafael Van der Vaart was the extent of legitimate chances in the opening 45 minutes. The addition of Brazilian Alexandre Pato at halftime vastly improved Milan's attack, and the home side looked to be in control after the break.
Ten minutes from time, though, Aaron Lennon broke free on a counterattack, sidestepped Mario Yepes and squared the ball to Crouch, who slotted it home from 12 yards out for Spurs' crucial away goal. Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked to have equalized at the death, but his overhead kick was disallowed after the referee spotted his push-off of Michael Dawson.
The fireworks didn't stop with the final whistle. After the match, Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso headbutted Spurs assistant coach Joe Jordan. The two had gotten into an altercation earlier in the match with Gattuso pushing Jordan in the throat. Both player and coach had to be held back and forced into their respective locker rooms, after players and staff from both teams converged on the touchline. Gattuso had already been ruled out of the second leg because of a yellow card he picked up in the second half.
Tottenham takes its 1-0 lead back to London when the two teams meet again on March 9. Here are highlights of the match:
VALENCIA 1, SCHALKE 1
Schalke 04 came from behind to earn a draw against Valencia, as the two teams take a 1-1 scoreline into the second leg, though the Germans have the edge via their away goal.
Roberto Soldado put the home side ahead in the first half by finishing off a Jeremy Mathieu cross. Valencia looked likely to extend its lead with sustained pressure, but chances from Artiz Aduriz and Ever Banega went begging.
Schalke scored its equalizer in the 63rd minute when Raul's left footed shot found the bottom right corner. The goal made the former Real Madrid player UEFA's all-time leading scorer with his 71st goal in European competitions.
The two sides meet again in Germany on March 9. Here are highlights from the match:
What did you think of both matches? Impressed with Tottenham's performance? Do you see AC Milan recovering in London? Who do you think will advance between Valencia and Schalke?
Share your thoughts below.