Tottenham Hotspur, inspired by a remarkable solo performance from Gareth Bale, claimed one of the biggest scalps in European football last night with a thoroughly deserved 3-1 victory over the Champions League winners Internazionale.
On a memorable night the European champions were given the runaround as Spurs recorded a sweet victory thanks to goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Bale however was the architect with a performance of pace, energy and precision that will be talked about for years. He did not score but his display was even better than the one he produced two weeks ago, when he scored a late hat-trick in Tottenham's 4-3 defeat at San Siro.
Bale gave the right-back Maicon such an uncomfortable game the Brazil international will surely have nightmares about it for some time. Bale's team-mate Van der Vaart, who was replaced at half-time with a hamstring injury, put it best when he said: "Everyone is scared of him. Maicon is the best right-back in the world – but he killed him."
The Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, who had learned before the game that he will not face charges for his outspoken criticism of referee Mark Clattenburg after Saturday's defeat to Manchester United, was also in awe of Bale's display.
Redknapp said: "You have to put it into perspective. Look at who we were playing against. Inter Milan, the Champions League holders. It was a fantastic performance. Bale was outstanding and he was playing against a right-back rated by many as the best in the world.
"It's like you're a boxer knocking everybody out, but it's only when you do it against the top people that it counts. Well, he was coming up against the champion tonight – and he's done it again. He's given him the most torrid time you would ever wish to see. It was amazing."
Bale's wonder show impressed former World Player of the Year Luis Figo, who was on the bench in his role as an international ambassador for Inter. "Figo said to me at the end 'Bale is amazing, amazing'. And when Figo says that, he must be a fantastic footballer. He said: 'He killed us, twice'," Redknapp said.
"Gareth was brilliant, but the whole team was brilliant. Every one of them. We outplayed them. We were much the better team from start to finish. It was an outstanding performance, one of the greatest nights the fans have seen at White Hart Lane. It will help them all. They are all growing up. It is great experience."
Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter have all privately expressed interest in Bale but Redknapp claimed he was confident he would be able to keep hold of a player who is fast becoming one of the most coveted in world football.
"The people who own Tottenham are not poor people. They don't need to sell him. It's a well-run club," Redknapp said. "I gave him four days off last week because I thought he needed a break and told him to go abroad. He did. He went to Cardiff to his mum's. I don't think he needs to go anywhere else to play his football. He needs to stay here."
Bale was refreshingly underwhelmed by the significance of his display. "I just feel confident on the ball at the moment," he said. "We're playing well and it allowed Aaron Lennon and me to run at defenders. I'm just enjoying my football. I think the difference is being given the chance and learning in training. I always knew I was capable of it."
Tottenham's exhilarating exhibition of attacking football puts them top of Group A. The comprehensive victory also made it an uncomfortable return to England for Inter manager Rafael Benitez, who replaced Jose Mourinho after leaving Liverpool in the summer. The Spaniard, whose team scored a consolation goal from Samuel Eto'o, seemed at a loss to explain the defeat and was grudging in his praise of his tormentor-in-chief Bale.
"We knew it would be difficult to stop him if he had space," Benitez said. "He was running but he had the space and that was the difference."
Redknapp predicted any team in Europe would now fear a trip to White Hart Lane, where Tottenham have scored 11 goals in three Champions League games. "We've ripped teams apart here. Anyone would know they'll get a tough game here," he said. He also welcomed the Football Association's decision not to charge him over last weekend's comments. Instead he will receive a formal warning for his remarks concerning Luis Nani's controversial goal.
The Tottenham manager said: "I didn't think there was any decision to be made. I'm glad common sense prevailed. I don't know what all the fuss was about."Reuse content