Inter tear Spurs to pieces before surviving Bale's late onslaught
Internazionale 4 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Thursday 21 October 2010
It was one-man rebellion. It was a roar of defiance with a Welsh accent. Gareth Bale's hat-trick here last night was quite simply a stunning performance from one of the best young footballers in Europe.
Tottenham Hotspur were a lost cause after 14 minutes: three goals down, reduced to 10 men by the needless red card incurred by Heurelho Gomes and a defensive shambles. But by the end Bale's three goals in the second half – two of them in injury-time at the end of the game – had changed the mood of the Spurs supporters up in the gods at San Siro.
Spurs were well beaten at half-time, four goals down and praying that it would not get any worse. But it is testament to the character of Bale, a revelation since he broke into the Spurs team in January, that he never gave up. When he plucked the ball out the net after his first and ran back to the halfway line you had to smile at his youthful optimism. By the time Bale scored his third Spurs goal, a draw was a possibility.
"Time ran out on us," said Bale and indeed it was the Internazionale fans who were calling for the final whistle at the end of the match. The 21-year-old might not quite have saved the day for Spurs but he certainly saved them a lot of face and the return fixture at White Hart Lane on 2 November suddenly does not look quite such a daunting prospect.
Having asked his team at half-time to make sure they did not lose by a "crazy score", Redknapp conceded that it was Bale who had got his team out of a sizeable hole. "He is an amazing young player," Redknapp said. "He can play left-back, wide left, he scores goals and can run all day. Even in the first half he gave the right-back [Maicon] a torrid time and he is one of the best in the world. Every time we got it out to Gareth we gave them problems."
Bale was the subject of an inquiry from Inter in the summer and after last night's performance Redknapp was again obliged, as he was before the match, to reject any suggestion that Spurs would sell him. When he plays as he did here there is no keeping secret the fact that Bale is arguably the best young talent in Europe. Inter have one of their own in the 18-year-old Brazilian Coutinho. But Bale was peerless.
Redknapp said: "Tottenham is a club that wants to progress, not sell their best players. If we sold Bale now we would send out the wrong signals. We would be regarded as a selling club. We have to build a team around him. He has signed a new contract and hopefully he will be a big part of the team."
Even the triumph of Bale's single-handed comeback could not completely erase the memory of a dreadful first-half performance. It was not just Gomes' brainless challenge on Jonathan Biabiany that conceded the penalty for the second goal, it was the ease with which the ball was played inside the two full-backs and the complete ineffectiveness of William Gallas and Sebastien Bassong in the centre of defence.
Redknapp described that first half as "like your worst nightmares". If this was not Spurs' worst-case scenario then it was hard to imagine what might have been. Javier Zanetti scored the first after just 68 seconds. Samuel Eto'o scored twice, once from the penalty spot. Dejan Stankovic's goal for Inter – their third – came on the end of a 34-pass move.
"At half-time the mood was justmassive disappointment," Redknapp said. "We started the game sloppy. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. With the first goal and then the penalty it was a disastrous start. I said to the players: 'All we have to play for is our pride. We have to make sure we are not embarrassed by a crazy score.'"
To his credit, Redknapp could have substituted one of his wingers and tried to shore the game up before it got even worse but he kept them both on and Spurs always looked dangerous when they got the ball wide. Aaron Lennon does not have anything like the same impact as Bale but he played well last night and is rediscovering some of last season's form.
In the end, it was not such a bad night for Redknapp with the draw between FC Twente and Werder Bremen meaning that Spurs are two points clear in second place in the group and in a strong position to qualify for the knockout round. Certainly, Tottenham's progress in the Champions League this season, including their qualifier with Young Boys, has been a thrilling journey.
The Inter first goal came from a move that was begun by Zanetti. The ball was returned to him via Coutinho and then Eto'o. It was a bad start, yet it was about to get a whole lot worse.
Zanetti's goal had come from a ball played inside the hapless right-back Alan Hutton. The next catastrophe came down Spurs' left side when Wesley Sneijder played in Biabiany with a pass inside the run of Benoit Assou-Ekotto. In a desperate misjudgement, Gomes came out to meet Biabiany, blatantly tripped him and was dismissed.
Luka Modric was called to the bench after just 10 minutes to be replaced by Carlo Cudicini who was beaten from the penalty spot by Eto'o. With 10 men Spurs' cause felt truly hopeless. The third goal arrived three minutes later. Stankovic clipped a shot inside Cudicini's right post while the Spurs defence were still trying to sort themselves out.
There was an improvement of sorts after the third goal and Peter Crouch should have scored from a back-post header when Lennon crossed after 28 minutes. The fourth Inter goal came 10 minutes before the break, another pass through the centre of Spurs' defence from Coutinho and Eto'o did the rest.
Bale's response was stunning. His first two goals came from runs down the left. The first carried him 68 yards and past the challenges of Maicon, Zanetti and Walter Samuel. For his third he took the ball from Lennon and clipped his shot past Julio Cesar. It was still a defeat; but instead of a humiliation it was a defeat that felt, in its own way, like a triumph.
Results so far Werder Bremen 2 Tottenham 2, FC Twente 2 Inter 2; Tottenham 4 FC Twente 1, Inter 4 Werder Bremen 0; FC Twente 1 Werder Bremen 1, Inter 4 Tottenham 3.
Tottenham's remaining fixtures 2 Nov Internazionale (h); 24 Nov Werder Bremen (h); 7 Dec FC Twente (a).
FC Twente 1 Werder Bremen 1
FC Twente were denied their first win of the campaign by a Marko Arnautovic strike with 10 minutes remaining after Theo Janssen had put the hosts ahead.
Internazionale 4-2-3-1: Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu (Pandev, 61); Zanetti, Stankovic (Santon, 50); Biabiany (Cordoba, 75), Sneijder, Coutinho; Eto'o. Substitutes not used Castellazzi (gk), Muntari, Cambiasso, Materazzi.
Tottenham Hotspur 4-1-4-1: Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone (Palacios, 80); Lennon, Jenas, Modric (Cudicini, 10), Bale; Crouch (Keane, 67). Substitutes not used Kaboul, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Kranjcar.
Referee D Skomina (Slovenia).
Man of the match Bale.
Match rating 8/10.
Man for man marking
Left with little choice but to rush out and bring down Biabiny to earn red card. 3
Awful placing let in Zanetti for opener but improved in concentration after break. 6
Failed to provide cool head Spurs needed. Slow to react for Inter's fourth. 5
Lost amid maelstrom of Inter's passing. 5
Often found wanting too far upfield. 5
Appeared to have regained some of his swagger. Fine run for Bale's third. 6
Big night at San Siro lasted just 10 minutes thanks to Gomes' dismissal. 4
Outfought and outthought by speed and ingenuity of Sneijder and Zanetti. 5
Composed when in possession. 6
A threat all night. Superb runs for first two goals and deserved his hat-trick. 8
Isolated up front and wasted chances. 5
Cudicini (for Modric, 10) Beaten thrice. 5
Keane (for Crouch, 67) Quiet. 5
Palacios (for Huddlestone, 80). 4
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