Tottenham Tops AC Milan as Champions League Resumes; Raul Rescues Schalke
Peter Crouch scored the only goal as Tottenham beat AC Milan to open the Champions League round of 16, while Raul Gonzalez earned Schalke a 1-1 draw at Valencia.
Crouch finished off a counterattack by Aaron Lennon with 10 minutes left as tournament newcomer Tottenham upset seven-time European champion Milan last night at the San Siro stadium.
“The whole team was magnificent,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said in post-match comments on his club’s website. “Every single one of them did their job. We caught them on the break, scored the goal and it was a well-deserved win.”
Raul extended his record Champions League goal tally to 69 to wipe out an earlier score from Roberto Soldado as Schalke came from behind for the draw in Valencia, Spain.
Tottenham and Schalke host the return matches in the two- game series on March 9. The knockout stage of European soccer’s elite club competition continues tonight as Arsenal hosts Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk visits Roma.
Spurs pressured Milan early and had a penalty appeal for handball against Alessandro Nesta denied in the opening minute. Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati then left the game in the 18th minute with a head injury and was replaced by Marco Amelia.
The substitute goalkeeper knocked a Rafael van der Vaart shot over the crossbar in the 41st minute as Tottenham continued to control play. Milan’s Ignazio Abbati forced Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes into a save with a long-range effort, while Robinho sent a shot wide just before halftime.
Van der Vaart chipped wide early in the second half and Gomes made a lunging one-handed save from Mario Yepes.
Tensions rose after Mathieu Flamini’s two-footed tackle against Vedran Corluka forced the Spurs defender out of the game and Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso had bad-tempered exchanges with Crouch and Spurs’ assistant coach Joe Jordan. Yepes was then denied again by Gomes, who knocked away the defender’s header from point-blank range.
Tottenham broke through in the 80th minute as Lennon got the ball in his own half. The winger carried it to the edge of the Milan penalty area, skipped around Yepes’s challenge and passed for Crouch to tuck the ball into the corner of the goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked to have tied the game for Milan in the final minute of stoppage time, though his overhead kick was disallowed for a foul by the Swedish striker.
“I thought we deserved to win, we limited them to a few chances,” Crouch told Sky Sports. “It’s a fantastic achievement to beat Milan in the San Siro but the job is not finished.”
Milan captain Gattuso, who will miss the second game after picking up a yellow card, appeared to head butt Jordan after confronting him as he was leaving the field.
“I lost control,” Gattuso told AC Milan’s website. “There is no excuse for what I have done. I accept my responsibilities for that.”
Former Real Madrid striker Raul scored on his return to Spain to give Schalke the advantage heading back to Germany for the second game.
Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar shot wide from close range in the 10th minute before Valencia took the lead six minutes later. Jeremy Mathieu’s near-post cross found Soldado, who sent a first-time shot past Manuel Neuer for his sixth goal of this season’s competition.
Raul tied the game midway through the second half when he took a pass from Jose Manuel Jurado, pushed the ball past David Navarro and fired a shot under goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Junmin Hao had a shot turned aside by Guaita after going in alone on the goal before Schalke’s Lukaz Schmitz was sent off in stoppage time following his second yellow card.
The round of 32 in the second-tier Europa League also began yesterday as Manchester City drew 0-0 with Aris Salonika in Greece. City will host the return match in the two-game series on Feb. 24. The remaining 15 matchups start tomorrow.
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