Tottenham Hotspur produced a fine display to defeat UEFA Champions League holders Inter Milan 3-1 at White Hart Lane last night.
Goals from van der Vaart, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko gave Spurs the advantage despite Samuel Eto’o’s reply for the visitors, but it was Tottenham’s 21 year old left winger, Gareth Bale who once more stole the show during a match which saw the London team claim the top spot in UEFA Champions League Group A (on goal difference).
If Tottenham had any nerves from the disaterous opening quarter in the San Siro a fortnight ago, they didn’t show, and it took just 18 minutes for the hosts to take the lead, which came from the boot of in-form Rafael van der Vaart after a precise pass from Luka Modric.
Tottenham took real heart from this goal, and began to press forward looking to land a killer blow. Bale, on the left, was causing all kinds of problems for Maicon, and the Brazillian right back came off second best on a number of occasions.
Peter Crouch spurned a great opportunity to double the lead mid way through the opening half as Bale cut through and delivered a great ball, which the tall centre forward volleyed wide.
At half time, the sides went in with the score still 1-0 to Spurs, but not before Carlo Cudicini had produced a stunning save from a Wesley Sneider free kick that was heading into the top corner.
Tottenham were forced to take off their goalscorer, van der Vaart, as his hamstring troubles – which also saw him miss half of Saturday’s match at Old Trafford – had resurfaced. Jermain Jenas came on the replace him.
Tottenham did not lose any momentum, however, and it was they who looked like adding to the scoreline when Bale narrowly missed and Peter Crouch had a header well saved by Inter’s stand in goalkeeper, Castellazzi.
On 61 minutes, Spurs would see a return for their efforts, however, as Crouch at last got his goal following more excellent work and a pin-point cross from man-of-the-moment Bale.
Crouch had his chance put on a plate by Bale, but his finish was composed and raised the roof as home fans saw daylight open up between their men and the Champions of Europe.
Samuel Eto’o looked to have set up a grandstand finish on 80 minutes when finishing well from an acute angle after tormenting Alan Hutton, the Spurs right-back – it was not an evening for right fullbacks – with a delightful dummy.
Roman Pavlyuchenko sealed the victory and restored the two goal advantage Tottenham’s endeavour had deserved with a minute remaining when he tucked home yet another fabulous Gareth Bale cross.
The final whistle blew soon after to rapturous applause from the home fans.
Speaking after the match, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was full of praise for his team:
“It was a great performance from the whole team, every single player,”
“Gareth will get all the plaudits, and he was brilliant. But the whole team was brilliant.”
“There isn’t one player who didn’t do what we asked of them. We closed them down, we outplayed them, we outpassed them. We were much the better team.”
“It was an outstanding performance and one of the great nights at White Hart Lane.”
“You have to put it into perspective with who we’re playing against. Inter Milan, the Champions League holders, the Italian champions.”
“The opposition was top, top class and for us to play how we did against them was just a fantastic performance.”
“I thought Gallas was fantastic and young Kaboul is looking a real player. The two have come together as a pairing and they did great against top opposition.”
“Gallas’ experience is important for us but they are all growing up and it’s experience for all of them.”
“He was top, top drawer and every single one of them was brilliant. Carlo in goal, Aaron Lennon was a constant threat, Crouchy has led the line well for us in Europe.”
“We’ve got great players and this is a great stadium for generating an atmosphere.”
“We’re playing well. We’ve got a good chance now to get out of the group and that’s what we’re really aiming to do.”
If Tottenham can pick up a win in either of their next two matches, against Werder Bremen, who were beaten last night at home, or Twente, they will be all but assured of a place in the final 16 knockout phase in their first season in the UEFA Champions League.
Rafa Benitez will hope to get more from his team away from home if they are to succeed in their attempt to retain the Champions League title they won from Barcelona last year under the direction of Jose Mourinho.
Last night, however, the difference was obvious: at 21 years old, Gareth Bale of Tottenham truly came of age.
- Rafael Van der Vaart, Tottenham Hotspur (18)
- Peter Crouch, Tottenham Hotspur (61)
- Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan (80)
- Roman Pavlyuchenko, Tottenham Hotspur (89)
07 Lennon (Palacios 84)
11 Van der Vaart (Jenas 46 )
15 Crouch (Pavlyuchenko 76)
Tottenham Hotspur Substitutes
11 Muntari (Obiora Nwankwo 53)
27 Pandev (Milito 71)
88 Biabiany (Phillippe Coutinho 64)
Inter Milan Substitutes
40 Obiora Nwankwo
29 Phillippe Coutinho