By David Rodich
After the gripping match two weeks ago between these two sides in the San Siro, everyone was expecting another thriller. The outing didn’t disappoint – proving to be one to watch until the end.
While Inter won the previous meeting, the main storyline was Gareth Bale’s hat trick and his domination of Maicon along the left touchline. That theme continued from the get-go of this match with Tottenham in fact seeing significant advantages on both wings. The speedy Aaron Lennon also proved from the early minutes to be too much for Chivu to handle on the right side. It was these mismatches, especially the Bale-Maicon match-up, that told the story of the game. If they weren’t beating defenders down the touchlines, they were drawing in Inter’s holding midfielders Zanetti and Muntari to help the backs, leaving the center open for Tottenham’s creative playmakers Modric and Van der Vaart to orchestrate attacks. This is exactly what happened in Tottenham’s first goal. Bale found the ever-composed Modric open in a pocket of space. The Croatian feigned a shot and spotted a little through-pass to Van der Vaart who coolly finished. The Spurs looked likely to make it two in the 25th when Bale went past Maicon and found Crouch who missed the goal and neglected to pass to the wide-open Van der Vaart.
Inter looked shaken and perpetually on the back foot. They had nine shots in the first half (compared to Inter’s seven), but most of them were taken well outside the box. Eto’o came close once, and Sneijder saw his well-taken free kick saved by back-up goalkeeper Cudicini, but the Nerazzurri just couldn’t find that last crucial pass into an area of real danger.
The second half was more of the same. In the 61st minute, Bale again made tracks down the left touchline and sent a cross that Crouch couldn’t miss this time, making it 2-0 to the home-side. Minutes later it almost looked as if the Bale-Crouch combination had struck again, but the goal was rightly called back as Bale had dribbled over the end-line on his way past Maicon.
With Milito brought on (for the first time in a month) along with the young Brazilian Coutinho, Inter pushed forward and tried to claw their way back into the match. In the 80th, Eto’o made it a 2-1 game with a nice move and shot inside the box. For once the defending champs had the momentum, but, as they pushed desperately forward, Bale hurt them again. Just one minute short of regulation time, he ran (this time past Lucio) down the left side and found Pavlyuchenko for the match clincher, making the final score 3-1 to the elated Spurs.
It was a victory well earned by the home side. Inter looked flat and weakened by injuries, and Tottenham played as a team possessed. If they can continue to perform at this level they can give any side a run for their money – now for Harry Redknapp and Spurs’ management to just try to keep hold of their rising stars, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.