Hero and villain: Tottenham winger Gareth Bale scores against Inter Milan before taking a tumble in the Europa League

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‘There was a risk of Gareth being suspended for the quarter-finals, so we clean him of the cards’

White Hart Lane

Gareth Bale will not return to San Siro on Thursday after being suspended for diving, but the Tottenham Hotspur manager, Andre Villas-Boas, said he was pleased the Welsh striker was out as it left him “clean” for Spurs’ likely quarter-final.

Villas-Boas even suggested he would have asked Bale to get booked during Spurs’ 3-0 win over Internazionale, in which Bale opened the scoring with a header, to wipe his slate clean.

“He’s obviously a great a miss,” Villas-Boas said after the victory. “With this result we would have asked him to get the yellow card to get clean and be ready for the last eight.”

Villas-Boas admitted Spurs will miss Bale but hoped their margin was enough that they would not need him. “I think we are in a good position,” the manager said. “It’s not finished. We will miss Gareth because he’s been influential I consecutive games but hopefully we can make it without him and go through to the last eight.”

Bale’s booking, for going down near Walter Gargano in the penalty area in the first half, was his third of the Europa League so far this season. It was his sixth for simulation in the last 15 months.

Villas-Boas was candid afterwards, saying that the booking had the beneficial effect of resetting his card counts for Spurs’ quarter-final, presuming they get there.

“It was the risk of being suspended for the game, so we clean him,” the Portuguese explained. “We have him clean of the cards for the future rounds. He’s obviously going to be missed, but we have to be aware and maybe give an opportunity for another player. We will have [Emanuel] Adebayor back, [Clint] Dempsey will be back soon, so perhaps we can play two up front.”

Bale opened Spurs’ scoring with a powerful header after just six minutes, his 10th goal in Tottenham’s last eight games, and Villas-Boas said he was delighted with his continued form.

“He’s a tremendous player,” Villas-Boas said. “So powerful now through the middle. It’s a great moment of his career, so we’re very very fortunate to have him playing at this level.”

He was delighted with Spurs’ display, arguably their best of his tenure. “It was a very good performance, it was a great night of European football for us,” he said. “We really felt at half-time we could have gone further ahead. We had so many opportunities that in the end it was a great game of football, well played and we really deserved to win.”

Villas-Boas was proud of Spurs’ progress in this competition and felt that momentum was building for them. “Our big, big task is progressing through the competition all the way because of the prestige it has and the effect it can have on our season,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go but to take out two teams that are normally in the Champions League [Lyons and Inter] speaks very highly for us.”

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