Peter Crouch savours San Siro strike

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The Independent Online

Tottenham striker Peter Crouch savoured one of the most important goals of his career so far after netting the winner against AC Milan last night.

Tottenham took a big step towards making it through to the Champions League quarter-finals when Crouch side-footed home his 80th-minute finish to give his team a vital 1-0 victory over the seven-time European champions at the San Siro.

Gennaro Gattuso's headbutt on Spurs assistant manager Joe Jordan and Matthieu Flamini's horror tackle on Vedran Corluka dominated much of the talk following the match but Crouch was keen to put the focus back on what was a robust and disciplined performance from the Londoners.

Crouch rounded off that performance with an easy finish from 12 yards after Aaron Lennon had split open the Milan defence and drawn keeper Marco Amelia off his line.

The England striker, who has scored 10 goals this season, admits it was a dream to join a long list of greats who have scored in the famous Giuseppe Meazza stadium.

He said: "I grew up watching Milan play at the San Siro. There have been some great teams here - (Fabio) Capello's team with (Ruud) Gullit and (Marco) Van Basten. They are all great players so to have got a goal here means a lot to me.

"I'll have to go through all the others I've scored but I can tell you that it's right up there with the best."

Corluka is expected to have an x-ray in the next 48 hours on his ankle, which bore the brunt of Flamini's two-footed tackle, while UEFA announced today that they have launched an investigation into Gattuso's conduct.

Spurs' defensive weaknesses were laid bare on their last visit to the San Siro when they conceded four first-half goals against Inter in a nightmare opening 45 minutes in which they had Heurelho Gomes sent off.

Prior to the match, much had been made of Tottenham's poor defensive record in the group stages where they conceded 11 goals in four matches.

But William Gallas and Michael Dawson performed well to stifle the threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho and Crouch was full of praise for his side's defence.

"Sometimes we can make it difficult for ourselves but I thought we defended well," Crouch said.

"It would have been frustrating if they had won because I think we fully deserved it.

"You always have to defend well away from home in Europe and it was backs to the wall at times but we were strong."

Gomes only managed seven minutes on the pitch against Inter last October before being dismissed for a foul on Jonathan Biabiany.

The Brazilian stopper made amends for that error with a top-class performance last night, pulling off two excellent saves to deny Milan's Mario Yepes.

"I tried to forget about getting sent off here but it helped me focus on playing well," Gomes said after the match.

"The last time I played here it was not easy for me, leaving my team-mates with just 10 men - it's hard enough playing here with 11 - so this was a much better night and we deserved this great win.

"I made a couple of good saves. It's not easy to play at San Siro, which is why we had to stay focused for the whole game."

With Gareth Bale set to return for the second leg in three weeks' time and Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart expected to be back to full fitness, Gomes is confident of Spurs' chances of making it into the last eight.

"We are growing in confidence all the time because we finished first in the group and now we have come here and won," he said.

"This sort of result will strengthen our belief to keep going. We always knew we could do well in this competition because we have a great squad.

"We can rotate our players now: we lost Gareth Bale and Luka Modric only came on in the second half but the lads who started did great."