Tottenham Hotspur inflicted a convincing 3-1 defeat to reigning European Champions Inter Milan in front of an ecstatic sold-out crowd at White Hart Lane in London on Tuesday. The match was the second leg of what has thus far, proved to be the most entertaining tie in this year’s Champions League competition.
Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart combined to give the north Londoners the lead in the 18th minute when the former broke inside and passed the ball to the latter who neatly slotted it home between the keeper and the near post to make it 1-0. Second half goals from Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko added to the home side’s lead while Samuel Eto’o provided Inter with their only goal of the encounter.
But despite impressive performances from the likes of Van der Vaart, Crouch and Modric, Tottenham’s star turn came from left winger, Gareth Bale who had a hat trick against Inter in the first leg of the tie at the San Siro two weeks ago. Bale caused all kinds of problems for Inter’s defense on Tuesday, repeatedly blasting past the likes of Maicon and Lucio as if they weren’t even there. Seemingly every time the young Welsch international received the ball he’d explode into a lighting fast break down the wing which would culminate in him dangeroulsy crossing the ball in front of goal. Crouch was on hand to tap it home in the 61st minute as was Pavlyuchenko in the 89th.
Rafael Van der Vaart was Tottenham’s other standout player until he came off at the interval due to aggravation of an injury he’d pick up playing against Manchester United on the weekend. The Netherlands midfielder had a great first half and aside from scoring Spur’s first goal he was particularly effective with set pieces and generally made a menace of himself from the number 10 position in midfield.
On the other hand his counterpart and fellow Netherlands international, Wesley Sneijder, had a much tougher night. The Ballon d’Or candidate seemed to struggle to impose himself on the game and was repeatedly reduced to taking clumsy potshots from the top of the 18 that were all readily saved by Tottenham keeper Carlo Cudicini.
Indeed the reigning European and Serie A champs looked outclassed for much of the match. Their only really threatening player for most of the engagement was Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian striker provided the Italians with their only goal of the match on a one-two with Sneijder that came in the 80th minute and culminated with a spectacular angled shot that bent itself past Cudicini into the far corner of the net. The former Barca man also very nearly scored in the 7th minute with a sizzling effort from outside the 18 that beat the keeper but missed the mark by a matter of inches. The champs had a few other good looks on goal courtesy of near misses from Lucio in the 30th minute and Diego Milito in the dying seconds of regulation play.
Tottenham, who have never competed in the UEFA Champions League in it’s modern form, now find themselves in the enviable position of sitting atop Group A, ahead of Inter on goal differential. Their next Champions League outing will be on November 24th when they welcome Werder Bremen. Inter will welcome Dutch Champions Twente Enschede to the San Siro that same day.