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Bravery, enterprise and energy spur Tottenham

Bravery, enterprise and energy spur Tottenham
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AC Milan superstars including Zlatan Ibrahimovic were blunted by Spurs' excellence in their Champions …

Over the course of 90 enthralling minutes that produced no goals but constant drama, we saw on Wednesday night what really counts in the Champions League.

Tottenham's 0-0 draw with AC Milan was enough to put it through to the quarterfinals, having won the first leg in Italy two weeks earlier and shattering a few illusions in the process.

We now can say with some level of certainty that there are bunch of truths that teams with aspirations of future success in this tournament would do well to bear in mind:

Bravery counts more than reputation. Enterprise is a virtue that cannot be ignored. Energy can't outshine excellence but can blunt its force. And complacency and arrogance will undoubtedly be punished.

Tottenham has come into this year's competition, its first Champions League appearance, with the enthusiasm one might expect from a newcomer, but without a shred of nerves or any sense of inferiority.

Its courage and conviction in playing its favored brand of open, attacking soccer pulled the side through a tricky group and set the stage for this two-legged upset over a seven-time European champion and Italy's current Serie A league leader.

Even with a one-goal lead after an epic effort in the San Siro, Tottenham still tried to get at Milan, never content to merely sit on its advantage. Although by necessity the second half contained some resolute defending, the Spurs never fully put up the shutters. This was not one of "those" 0-0 draws, where nothing happens and you feel like eating your remote control to alleviate the tedium.

Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp is widely expected to succeed Fabio Capello in the England national team role before too long, and his team's European excursion this season has boosted his credentials.

He always has insisted on a work ethic that is second to none. Such commitment proved to be Milan's undoing. Even with superstars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho, the Italian giants did not like being pestered, harangued and denied the kind of time on the ball they are used to.

The level of over-optimism Milan held going into this round-of-16 showdown was blown away in the first leg and replaced here by a sense of panic. Tottenham never allowed Milan to settle, and despite some decent chances for both sides, momentum always seemed to rest with the English team.

"It's a great achievement for this club to be in the last eight of the Champions League," Redknapp said. "It's amazing what the players have done. If people can't enjoy or appreciate that, they shouldn't be involved in football.

"I think the fans are already dreaming. What we've achieved is an impossible dream. Nobody could've seen this coming."

A dream, yes, but perhaps not so impossible. Tottenham's run might feel like a fairytale to its players and fans, but it has little to do with fate or luck or anything other than the beautiful simplicity of a carefully laid and perfectly executed plan.

This might not be the end, either. The greatest dangers for Redknapp's side may be if it gets drawn against another English team in the last eight. The supposed unfamiliarity of continental teams has not bothered them at all. Indeed, their up-tempo style seems to thrive in such an environment.

Despite some sneering words from the typically ungracious Ibrahimovic, Tottenham will know it has a very real chance of going deep in this event, deeper than it could have imagined.

"We played well, but didn't get the goal," said Ibrahimovic. "The best team doesn't always win."

The best team might not have won, but the braver, tougher, more imaginative team did. And in the Champions League, that now is what counts.