Thursday 8th March 2012
RVP pretty much got it spot on on Tuesday night. A victory would have been satisfying and we would have all probably taken that for our efforts on the night. To get so close to pulling off a minor miracle however, meant the journey home was graced with a very slight hint of disappointment.
To be confident of progressing after our first-leg defeat would have been nothing but foolhardy. Come half time it looked an increasing possibility as all those present looked at one another with 'we couldn't... could we?!' very much in their eyes.
Champions League nights, especially in the knockout stages, are always special. Despite going out, Tuesday was very much one of those occasions and all those who witnessed events came away knowing not only were they royally entertained but they came very close to witnessing possibly the greatest ever comeback in our long illustrious history.
Before a ball was kicked we all knew an early goal could set the tone for the evening. Scored by our visitors and it was very much game over, by us and it could give us the momentum to make a real tie of it.
Our stadium, like against Tottenham, was a cauldron of noise, the kind often described as that 12th man and once Tommy Rosicky doubled our lead the level reached a crescendo.
All of us would have settled for that two-goal lead come half time, the third almost had us in dreamland. To say it was one of the most incredible halves of attacking football is a gross understatement. Whatever happened in the second period nobody could suggest we didn't have a real go on the night.
Our only natural concern was that the quite incredible commitment and pace we had shown in the first half might see us tire as the game went on. We've seen it before with teams playing against us, often culminating in a positive result for us.
We will all remember an incident midway through the half, one where an incredible double save from Milan's keeper prevented us from bringing the scores level. If that had gone in we would have no longer needed to chase the game with such vigour and despite our obvious tiredness in the latter stages, who knows what would have happened.
Overall then, we are out and this season's European adventure comes to a close. Fantastic trips to Udine, Marseilles, Dortmund, Athens and Milan have provided considerable entertainment with only the latter seeing us come away disappointed with the events on the pitch (given that the result in Greece was pretty irrelevent).
In defeat however, for me Tuesday was one of the great European nights. An atmosphere and performance to behold and an addition to the renewed hope and optimism we have that this squad, with a few tweaks here and there, can go on to achieve what we all long for.
That continues with our battle to make sure we can enjoy another Champions League adventure next season and Newcastle stand in our way of another important three points this coming Monday night.
The TV selection means we get to enjoy that relatively rare situation where we have no game over the actual weekend. I intend to relax and watch others get stressed by their teams’ exploits for a change!
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