How times have changed at Tottenham Hotspur. After Tottenham Hotspur showed Sunday how leaky their defense could be as Wolverhampton Wanderers ran riot, It was refreshing to see the Lilywhites give a defensively sound performance Wednesday night against AC Milan. It was the type of display that Tottenham may need to rely on again in the quarter-finals of the Champions League where they will face one of the elite teams in the world.
By limiting a very attack-minded AC Milan side to just a few clear-cut chances to score Wednesday night and reducing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a bit part, Tottenham showed more versatility. The current Spurs side matured before our eyes. They’re becoming much more than just a balls-to-the-walls attacking side. They can, believe it or not, defend. That’s something that earlier this season or last season you would never expect especially with their long casualty list of injuries to key defenders. But, as we witnessed the brilliant display by Michael Dawson and William Gallas in the centre of defense Wednesday night, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate didn’t even enter our minds.
Tottenham’s performance last night was a far cry from the defensive frailties shown in their opening Champions League qualifying round match against Young Boys when they were three-nil down in the opening 28 minutes. Again, how times have changed.
The question is how far can they go from here? They’re only four games away from a Champions League Final at Wembley. In their first season in the Champions League, they’ve already defeated Italian powerhouses AC Milan and Inter Milan. A lot will depend on the luck of the draw, but no matter who they come up against except possibly Barcelona, you have to imagine they have a strong chance of making it into the semi-finals if they can play as well as they’ve done in previous Champions League matches. A return to full-fitness and regaining his goalscoring streak for Gareth Bale will be vital. But, as we saw Wednesday night, Rafael van der Vaart continues to be a threat up front.
A key advantage for Tottenham Hotspur is that their expectations are low. Teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United have the pressure hanging over their head that they must go far in this tournament. At the beginning of the season, no one expected Spurs to be in the final eight in Europe. And even if they got knocked out in the quarter-finals, their season and their European performance would be considered a tremendous success. It’s that lack of pressure coupled with the insane noise generated by the crowd at White Hart Lane that gives Spurs a distinct advantage. No matter what happens from here, Spurs are already winners. It’s a great place to be in.