At the start of the season when the highly anticipated UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw was made, this was the fixture that everyone associated with Tottenham Hotspur had been looking for, and what all the hard work last term and that magical night at Eastlands was for. Can we match Europes best? Can we be more than a side “making up the numbers” in this years competitions? These questions were answered emphatically.
After the disappointment and the controversy from the weekends fixture at Old Trafford, the lads had the chance to put everything right against European Champions, Inter Milan. Harry made two changes from the side that faced Manchester United. Tom Huddlestone came into the midfield alongside Luka Modric and Peter Crouch replaced Robbie Keane to pinpoint the attack. Dutch sensation Van der Vaart also provided a boost for Redknapp by being declared fit after a hamstring “twinge” at Old Trafford.
The scene was set, White Hart Lane rocking like no other night and the legendary Champions League theme bellowed round the stadium to cause many a hair on end. It was time for a dual of the fates beween Spurs and the Champions of Europe.
It was a positive start for Tottenham with some neat flowing football, however on just 6mins Samuel Eto’o showed what he was about with his first sniff of the ball and a shot from 20 yards that had Carlo Cudicini beaten, but just whistled past the post.
After that, Spurs dominated a half and a couple of minutes later Luka Modric drove a shot into the bottom left hand corner, only for the disputant goalkeeper Castelazzi to make a comfortable save.
Gareth Bale started to stretch his legs and made some powerful runs down the left past Inter Milan full-back, Maicon and put some dangerous balls into the Inter Milan penalty area, but Lucio and Chivu dealt with the crosses relatively easily.
There was nothing any of the Inter Milan defence could do on 17mins as Modric drifted in from the left and totally wrong footed Sulley Muntari before a reverse pass found Van der Vaart who smashed the ball as calmly as you like past Castelazzi to give Spurs a stunning, and deserved 1-0 lead.
The first half continued to be an open affair and just after the half hour mark Bale once again went past a helpless Maicon and put a superb cross towards Peter Crouch who smashed a volley past the far post from the corner of the 6 yard box.
Just before half time, Inter Milan were awarded a free kick from 20 yards out and the very quiet Wesley Sneijder stepped up to curl a fantastic free kick towards the top corner, only to see Cudicini fly across the goal and get two very strong palms to help turn it round the post. Fantastic save.
HT: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Inter Milan
At half time, Jenas came on for Van der Vaart as his hamstring injury from Old Trafford flaired up, though Harry reported that it was only a precaution.
Crouch aimed a tame header towards Castelazzi on 54mins and Spurs continued to look impressive, and livley. The midfield didn’t give any of the Inter Milan players a chance to get comfortable on the ball and Bale continued to simply torture Maicon down the left flank.
Tottenhams and Bales dominance was greatly rewarded smack on the hour mark as Bale once again made an absolutely devastating run past the hapless Maicon before putting a pinpoint ball across the six yard box to leave Castelazzi no chance, and Peter Crouch a simple chance to slide him from 6 yards. 2-0 to Tottenham. White Hart Lane was rocking.
The expected Inter Milan onslaught never came about, and 3minutes later Spurs had the ball in the back of the net again. Bale once again went past Maicon like he didn’t exist and unfortunately the ball went behind before he picked out Crouch for a tap in, and the official behind the goal awarded the goal kick to Inter.
Inter Milan still didn’t have any reply, and a tame effort from Eto’o was all that Spurs had to worry about. However, on 64 and 70, the Brazillian, Coutinho who tortured Spurs at the San Siro and prolific striker Militio were brought on by Rafa Benitez in search for a way back into the game, and the dividends were made almost straight away as Militio burst into the area and dragged a shot wide.
On 79mins, almost out of nothing Eto’o did get the European Champions back into the match as a quick drop of the shoulder on the edge of the area past Alan Hutton and a fantastic strike into the far bottom corner halved the scoreline.
There was no panic from the Spurs players and roared on by the fantastic fans at White Hart Lane, a final, unreal, inhuman, lungbusting run from Bale past Lucio and again, an absolute perfect ball into substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko just left a gaping goal for the Russian hit man to pass the ball simply into the net. White Hart Lane erupted. The match was in the bag.
A fantastic all round performance from the whole squad, tactically spot on by Redknapp, but all the plaudits and morning paper headlines belonged to the incredible Gareth Bale as Europe, and the World was once again introduced to the 21 year olds immense ability.
A truly memorable night.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Inter Milan
Spurs (4-4-1-1): Cudicini; Hutton, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Palacios, 85), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; van der Vaart (Jenas, 46); Crouch (Pavlyuchenko, 76)
Subs not used: Pletikosa, Bassong, Kranjcar, Keane
Inter (4-2-3-1): Castellazzi; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu; Zanetti, Muntari (Nwankwo, 53); Biabiany (Coutinho, 63), Sneijder, Pandev (Milito, 70); Eto’o
Subs not used: Orlandoni, Cordoba, Materazzi, Santon