Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Inter Milan: Bale shines on Spurs glory night
Published 21:43 02/11/10 By Darren Lewis
Devastated at the San Siro, devastating at the Lane.
Harry Redknapp's Champions League boys become men last night with an awesome display to embarrass holders Inter Milan
Few of the north London club's players would even get into the team of the Italian Treble winners from last season.
But Gareth Bale put in a performance of pure gold to terrorise Rafa Benitez's men and ensure he would get into any team in the world.
Surely the ninety minutes he produced last night must be up there with the greatest produced by a British winger for some time.
Rafael van der Vaart came out on top in his duel with countryman Wesley Sneijder. Peter Crouch was immense and Tom Huddlestone was outstanding against his hero Javier Zanetti.
William Gallas too was magnificent while substitute keeper Carlo Cudicini rolled back the years with a vintage display.
Indeed there were heroes throughout the Tottenham team as Milan were put to the sword.
This stunning victory also meant Redknapp continued his extraordinary record of out-manouevring teams Benitez.
But all everyone wanted to talk about last night was Bale.
For all the brilliance of his hat-trick in the San Siro, there was a widespread belief that the goals had come solely because Milan had taken their collective foot off the pedal.
That Tottenham had been allowed a route back into the match because the holders had eased up, deciding no more goals were required.
Tottenham laid waste to that theory last night with a start so electrifying that you wonder what might have been had they not been so overawed over in Italy.
Milan were under pressure from the start with Spurs, backed by a capacity crowd at full voice, ready to bring the noise.
Bale had had the big build up and he delivered utterly in his contest with Maicon, the Champions League's best right-back of last season.
In the pre-match build up Inter boss Rafa Benitez declined to answer whether or not the Welsh boy wonder would get into his team, such is his respect for Bale's prodigious talents.
On last night's performance, packed with quick feet, lung-busting energy and a will to track back, Bale would get into any team in the world.
In the opening exchanges the action came almost exclusively down the left for Spurs as Inter's supposed plan for stopping Bale was shot to pieces.
Maicon was repeatedly left exposed and the Spurs left-back drove at him. Ironically, though, it was Inter who produced the first chance. Samuel Eto'o flashing a right-foot shot far closer to the wrong side of Carlo Cudicini's post than at first glance.
Spurs, however, hit back through Luca Modric who - after a slow start to this season - was as his elusive, creative best.
The Croatian ghosted past two defenders to make space for himself and spear a left-footed shot straight at reserve keeper Luca Castellazzi.
Then Bale reminded the Italians he was still there with a slalom past Maicon and Lucio that left the pair chasing shadows.
Inter responded by targeting Alan Hutton with Wesley Sneijder bamboozling the Scot to force a save out of Cudicini.
It was his fellow Dutchman who would break the deadlock.
On 17 minutes Bale and left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto combined to free Modric. The Croatian hurdled the challenge of Sulley Muntari - in for the injured Esteban Cambiasso - slipped in Van der Vaart and Tottenham's newest signing made no mistake.
White Hart Lane erupted. Boss Harry Redknapp had always maintained that attack would be the best form of defence against a side that were not as good defensively as when winning the Treble under Jose Mourinho.
And considering Spurs were a side shorn of their most potent striker in Jermain Defoe, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Vedran Corkuka, this display was all the more impressive.
Indeed it could have been so much had Crouch not missed incredibly from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.
The chance had been fashioned by Bale down the left who absolutely left Maicon for dead before powering in a sensational ball across the face of goal, just aching to be tapped in.
Crouch, though, went for power instead of precision and screwed the shot wide to leave Redknapp punching the air in frustration and the majority of White Hart Lane with their heads in their hands.
And yet still Spurs were on top, stalking the champions at every opportunity. Huddlestone blew yet another chance to double the advantage five minutes before the break when he blasted wide on being teed up by Van der Vaart.
When Modric fouled Sneijder on the edge of the Tottenham box, it looked as though the Dutchman would make the north Londoners pay for their profligacy.
Instead Cudicini stepped up with a quite magnificent save from the midfielder's free-kick, bent in like Beckham.
Van der Vaart may have remained in the dressing room after the break but by now his team-mates had the bit between their teeth.
Bale's over-head kick flew inches wide on 52 minutes. Crouch forced a spectacular save out of Castellazzi from Hutton's cross two minutes later.
But there could be no defence against another of Bale's electrifying bursts down the Spurs left on the hour. With Maicon choking in the Welshman's dust, the ball in was steered home by Crouch.
Eto'o capped a workmanlike display of his own with a fine right-footed strike to grab a consolation with ten minutes left.
It made for a sensational climax to a pulsating game. But Spurs not held out for a deserved victory, the rubber stamped it with a third.
You-know-who burst down the left yet again, sent another ball scorching across the Inter box, and there was substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko to tap it home with minutes remaning.
You feared for Spurs when the draw for these group stages was initially made.
Now it is European football's finest who must fear Spurs.
Tottenham: Cudicini 7, Hutton 7, Gallas 7, Kaboul 7, Assou-Ekotto 7, Lennon 6 (Palacios 84), Huddlestone 7, Modric 8, Bale 9, Van der Vaart 8 (Jenas 45, 7), Crouch 8 (Pavlyuchenko 75, 7).
Inter Milan: Castellazzi 6, Maicon 4, Lucio 6, Samuel 6, Chivu 6, Muntari 5 (Nwankwo 52), Zanetti 7, Biabiany 6 (Coutinho 63, 6), Sneijder 6, Pandev 4 (Milito 70), Eto’o 6
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)