Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Pienaar shines in stormy tie
Cape Town – Bafana Bafana star Steven Pienaar has been lauded for his performance in probably the most searching examination he has yet faced at club level.VIDEO: Gattuso headbutt on Joe Jordan
The former Everton player, who recently joined Tottenham, played an influential role as Spurs earned a famous 1-0 victory in their European Champions League round-of-16 first leg tie against Italian icons AC Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday night.
It was a feisty affair, to put it mildly, but the product of no-nonsense Westbury in Johannesburg kept admirable composure as he contributed to the smash-and-grab raid which leaves the Londoners well-placed to advance to the quarter-finals.
On a night when Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso spectacularly lost his rag – the yellow card he got for a foul on Pienaar means he misses the second leg, although that was the least of his indiscretions – the South African earned decent laurels in English newspapers.
In giving him a match rating of seven out of 10, the Daily Telegraph noted: “A slight surprise selection ahead of Niko Kranjcar on the left, but his ability to drift inside helped Spurs dominate central midfield and largely nullify AC Milan.”
Legendary writer James Lawton, in The Independent, said: “If Pienaar was not (injured Spurs wunderkind Gareth) Bale ... he was steady, progressive and impressively composed.”
And the mass-criculation The Sun, in handing him an impromptu “Best Newcomer” gong from the encounter, commented: “Pienaar was not expected to start, but showed no nerves on the biggest club stage he has performed.
“The South African ace coped with defensive pressure, despite heckling from the crowd.”