By David Rodich
Apart from Real Madrid and AC Milan, who played each other, all the other big name clubs faced opponents they were expected to beat this week in the Champions League. They all obliged but none of them with the emphasis that Inter showed in the first half of their 4-3 victory over Tottenham Hotspurs, who came into the San Siro far from being considered pushovers. Inter’s dream start was almost spoiled though in the second half by a driven Spurs team led on by Gareth Bale, who earned himself a remarkable late hat trick.
Inter stepped out the gate looking like a blessed side. The scoring started almost immediately when Eto’o found Zanetti in the 2nd minute on the end of an overlapping run in the box. The Argentine one-touched his shot, curling it past Heurelho Gomes. The elated Inter side kept the pressure on Tottenham’s struggling defense. Just five minutes later Snjeider fed Biabiany a through pass, leaving him one-on-one with Gomes who missed the ball and fouled the Frenchman – earning himself a red card and gifting Inter a penalty kick that Eto’o put perfectly into the top left corner. The Nerazzurri struck again in the 13th minute when, after more than a minute of uninterrupted possession, Stankovic netted Inter’s 3rd from the top of the box. After one more from Eto’o in the 35th, Inter went into halftime leading 4-0 against a Tottenham team reduced to 10 men.
The Spurs showed resilience though. Just six minutes into the second half Bale sprinted past Maicon and Zanetti on a 60 yard run down the left wing and slotted a low hard shot past Cesar to the far post. After spending the next 40 minutes in deadlock, Bale repeated this run and shot from almost the exact same spot, placing the ball again in the same far corner. And amazingly, just seconds later in extra time, he did it one more time from the same spot to the same corner after receiving a pass from Lennon who had made a penetrating run into the box.
While this was too little too late, the Spurs have some positives to take into their rematch against Inter in two weeks at White Heart Lane. Inter is also coming away from the fixture feeling positive. They are chalking up the two late goals as a lapse in concentration and focusing instead on their stellar first half performance.