Woodgate upbeat despite another injury setback

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The Independent Football

Tottenham Hotspur's Champions League win in Milan on Tuesday night has come at the price of two new defensive injuries, with both Jonathan Woodgate and Vedran Corluka facing absences as a result of problems sustained at San Siro. Woodgate, who was returning from a long-term spell out of the side, strained his groin, while Corluka's ankle was injured by a Mathieu Flamini tackle.

Woodgate sustained his injury after coming on as a substitute for Corluka 59 minutes into Tuesday's game. It was Woodgate's first Tottenham appearance since the 9-1 home victory over Wigan Athletic in November 2009. But the 31-year-old strained his left adductor muscle in the half an hour he was on the pitch and will be assessed over the next few days. He is likely to miss the next few weeks.

Despite the recurrence of his groin problems, Woodgate was delighted to return to the Tottenham side, and saw it as a vindication of his mental strength through adversity. "It was a great feeling to get back", said the former Real Madrid player. "There is nothing worse than when you can't play football.

"Watching games is painful when you're injured but you try to spur the lads on and give them all the confidence they need. A lot of people doubted whether I'd be able to get back but you have to show determination to not let bad times get you down and you have to just keep going."

The player Woodgate replaced on Tuesday, Corluka, will also join the host of Tottenham defenders currently unavailable; Ledley King, Younes Kaboul and Alan Hutton all missed the game in Milan with injuries. The Croat was the victim of a reckless tackle from former Arsenal midfielder Flamini and expects to be out for a month. The Frenchman received a yellow card from Stéphane Lannoy for a challenge that Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said risked breaking Corluka's leg.

Corluka said that the injury was not as bad as he had initially feared. "Luckily nothing is broken", he said, "but I will still be out for at least four weeks. When I first saw my ankle, I was sure it would be at least two months, but luckily it is not so bad." The club later confirmed that he had sprained part of his ankle joint capsule, and will make a gradual return to training next week. If his return is successful he will be back in full training in a few weeks.

The Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso has escaped a charge of assault for his headbutt on Tottenham coach Joe Jordan after Tuesday's game, Uefa said yesterday. The 33-year-old midfielder has instead been charged with the lesser offence of gross unsporting conduct, which, according to Uefa's disciplinary code, carries a minimum one-match ban.

Assault, in contrast, brings a minimum three-match ban while serious assault leads to a five-match suspension. Gattuso will learn of his punishment on Monday. Regardless of the sanction, he will miss the return leg at White Hart Lane on 9 March after being booked for a tackle on Steven Pienaar on Tuesday. Gattuso later apologised for his actions. "I lost control", he admitted. "There is no excuse for what I did."

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