Bale scores three but Inter outclass Spurs

It was a thriller for the neutral, but a game that Harry Redknapp and his Tottenham Hotspur side never quite got hold of.

Four goals conceded and a goalkeeper sent off all in the first 14 minutes, followed by a second half hat-trick for Gareth Bale. It’s fair to say it was another wild adventure for the Champions League new boys.

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There was barely a minute on the clock when it all began. After a passing move the Brazilians would have been proud of, Samuel Eto’o fed the ball through to skipper Javier Zanetti on the left, who calmly slotted the ball past Heurelho Gomes from 10 yards.

Things went from bad to worse six minutes later. Wesley Sneijder played a trademark through ball to Jonathan Biabiany, who was felled by the on-rushing Gomes.

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Referee Damir Skomina showed Gomes the red card, but so much was the goalkeeper’s bemusement at what was happening, he took an age to leave the pitch and was shown the card a second time.

Luka Modric had to part way for Carlo Cudicini, whose first piece of action was to pick the ball out of his net after Eto’o smashed the penalty home.

Things then went from worse to simply embarrassing.

After stringing together 35 passes – none of them remotely challenged by a dumbfounded Tottenham defence, Phillipe Coutinho laid the ball off to Dejan Stankovic, who found Eto’o, who flicked it back to Stankovic, who took a touch and finished past Cudicini into the bottom corner. Game over, surely.

Inter continued to dominate the first half. The fourth came after 34 minutes. Coutinho threaded the ball through to Eto’o who jinked the ball past Cudicini.

It was the Cameroon international’s second on the night and his 14th in just 12 games.

Perhaps things may have been different if Spurs’ man of the moment Rafael van der Vaart had been available – the Dutchman served a one-match ban following his sending of against FC Twente.

And maybe if key defender Ledley King or front-man Jermain Defoe weren’t both sidelined with injuries, Spurs may have put up more of a fight.

They were on the ropes from the offset, and Inter never looked liked stopping. Their fluidity and ability to keep possession in Tottenham’s half was mesmerising at times.

On what appeared a night of deep misery, Gareth Bale then gave the 5,000 travelling supporters something to cheer about.

On 52 minutes, the Welshman burst down the left with purpose, past Maicon, past Walter Samuel, and smashed the ball past a shocked Julio Cesar.

He produced a carbon copy in the 90th, again lashing the ball into the bottom corner.

And a minute later, lightning had struck three times. Aaron Lennon laid the ball off to Bale, who found his favourite corner once again with a sublime finish.

Sadly it all came too late for Spurs. It was a night that started so badly, but ended so well.

All eyes will be on the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane in a fortnight. Maybe, with Van der Vaart back in the ranks, Spurs could well overcome the holders.

Inter Milan (4-4-2): Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu (Pandev, 60); Zanetti, Stankovic (Santon, 50), Biabiany (Codoba,75), Sneijder; Coutinho, Eto’o.

Booked: Chivu

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone (Palacios,80), Jenas, Bale; Modric (Cudicini, 10); Crouch (Keane, 67).

Booked: Palacios Sent off: Gomes

By Luke Nicholls