DAVID SMITH - Thursday, March 14, 2013
Brad Friedel and Tottenham were dangerously close to an embarrassing collapse, but an overtime goal from Emmanuel Adebayor saw them through to the Europa League quarterfinal round.
Clint Dempsey did not join the team on their trip to Milan, as he is in the final stages of recovering from a calf injury.
The second leg of the marquee matchup in the Europa League round of 16 did not fail to disappoint, with Spurs thanking their lucky stars to come away from the San Siro with the overall aggregate win on away goals, after the teams played to a 4-4 total score after the two legs.
They were perhaps over-confident after their 3-0 thrashing of Inter in the first leg one week ago, and were also not done any favors by the absence of star player Gareth Bale due to a yellow card suspension.
Inter were facing an uphill battle to make up three goals, but began to chip away at the deficit after 20 minutes. Rodrigo Palacio drew everybody's attention on his run into the right side of the box, then fired a cross to the wide-open Antonio Cassano for a free header at the far post.
Palacio nearly added another in the 26th minute when he pulled down a ball over the defense from Cassano, and rocketed his 18-yard shot off the crossbar.
Friedel picked up one of Tottenham's four yellow cards, this one for time wasting two minutes before the half, and will have to be careful in the next round to avoid picking up a second and a mandatory one-game suspension.
Inter kept piling on the pressure, and brought themselves to within a single goal seven minutes after the break. Estaban Cambiasso played a perfectly-weighted through ball behind the defense to Rodrigo Palacio, and the Argentine striker poked his shot out of Fridel's reach into the lower right corner.
With their advantage down to a single goal, Spurs decided to gift-wrap the equalizer for their hosts with 15 minutes on the clock. Cassano fired a free kick in from the left channel, and William Gallas' disastrous attempt at a clearance instead put the ball in his own net to send the teams to overtime.
In the closing minutes of regulation, it seemed to only be a matter of time before Inter would add a fourth to take the overall lead, however the visitors instead shocked the home crowd shortly after the beginning of the first overtime period.
Mousa Dembele hit a hard shot from the edge of the area which keeper Samir Handanovic blocked directly into Adebayor's path. The Togo international slid in to net the equalizer, once again restoring Tottenham's lead, but more importantly giving them the edge on away goal.
Inter needed two goals to have any hope of advancing, and pushed forward heavily through the remainder. They scored one of the two needed goals in the 110th minute when Ricardo Alvarez was at the far post to put away a fine cross form Cassano.
Fortunately for Spurs, they held on heroically to prevent Inter from scoring a winner, and were rewarded after a hard 120 minutes of work with their place in the quarterfinal round.
Dempsey should be back on the field when Spurs begin the quarterfinal round in early-April, with their opponent to be determined in Friday's draw. Meanwhile they have the matter of the Premier to contend with, and will look to solidify their hold on third on Sunday when Fulham come to visit.