Argentine becomes oldest scorer in Champions League history with the opener
Gareth Bale scored a remarkable consolation hat-trick as Tottenham fell to a 4-3 defeat against Inter, after the champions found themselves 4-0 up inside the first half with Heurelho Gomes also seeing red.
Javier Zanetti, a Samuel Eto'o penalty and Dejan Stankovic put Inter 3-0 ahead after just 14 minutes, before Eto'o added a fourth just 20 minutes later for a 4-0 lead at half-time.
It was Spurs who kicked off but within 70 seconds they were behind. As Peter Crouch, Bale and Modric attempted neat triangles, Zanetti stole in to start Inter’s charge.
Phillippe Coutinho continued the drive forward and found Eto’o who played the ball into the penalty area for Zanetti to run onto the finish smartly on the left-hand side to become the oldest scorer in the competition’s history at 37 years and 71 days.
If conceding after one minute wasn’t bad enough for Spurs, they made it even worse for themselves when Gomes rushed out to stop Jonathan Biabiany bearing down on goal, as his original marker Beniot Assou-Ekotto was done was pace straight away, but the goalkeeper proceeded to take down the 22-year-old inside the area and not only conceded a penalty but also witnessed the referee show him the red card, not once but twice.
Eto’o duly stepped up and slotted home past substitute goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who replaced Modric, Harry Redknapp’s charges now faced 80 minutes away from home against the Champions League holders with just 10 men.
Unsurprisingly the scoreline did not take long to change as only three minutes later Stankovic exchanged a neat one-two with Eto'o on the edge of the Spurs’ penalty area, after a 34 pass move that included the majority of the Inter players, and the midfielder waited for Tom Huddlestone to set himself before shooting low into the bottom right-hand corner of net to give his side a 3-0 lead.
The English side were shell-shocked. Their defending and concentration was non-existent.
Inter continued to pass it around for the following 15 minutes, knowing full well that the result was settled already, which appeared to give Spurs a chance to calm down a tad and regain some sort of posture.
Spurs were, surprisingly, the next team to go close to scoring, and probably should have. With Aaron Lennon slowly building confidence down the right-hand side he took on Zanetti and Cristian Chivu, and this time it was the Inter defence to look all out of sorts as the England winger whipped in a smart cross that Crouch only needed to guide on target to beat the stationary Julia Cesar but the striker failed to keep his header down and the chance went begging.
Spurs were soon punished for this miss as Inter decided to score again. The impressive Coutinho cut inside from the left and rolled a pass to Eto'o down the inside-left channel. As William Gallas’ attempt to play the offside trap went horribly wrong, the Cameroon striker simply toe-poked the ball over Cudicini to give his team a 4-0 lead at the break.
First half class | Inter stormed to a four-goal lead inspired by 14-minute blitz
As Inter started the second half full of confidence, they were immediately dealt a blow as Stankovic was forced off with an injury which, by his reaction of angrily throwing his shinpads into the dugout, could be a nasty one. It looked like either his knee, calf or Achilles.
Minutes later it went from a very good to not-so-brilliant evening for Inter as Bale got one back for the away side. The Welsh winger picked the ball up in his half and immediately burst past two Inter challenges and continued running until he reached the edge of the area where he, still in full stride after a 70 yard run, powered the ball across a stationary Cesar so the ball nestled into the far side netting to give the away fans something to finally cheer about.
Inter kicked into gear again and nearly added another from the kick-off when Davide Santon cut inside on the left-hand side and whipped a shot at Cudicini’s near side but the goalkeeper did well to stop the scoreline increasing.
With one youngster impressing for Spurs, another impressed for Inter all night, Coutinho. He was involved in everyone good for his side all night and nearly got on the scoresheet on the hour mark when he controlled the ball well under pressure on the edge of the Spurs area and managed to find enough space to squeeze out a shot, that got Cudcini scrambling, but it flashed wide.
As Inter slowed down the tempo in the final moments of the match, Bale had other ideas. As the clock entered stoppage time, in a carbon copy of his first goal he marauded down the left-flank and again beat Cesar by slamming it into the far post.
Then, just one minute later, Lennon picked up the ball on the right flank and drove inside towards the edge of the area, dragging Inter defenders in with him, before laying it off to Bale to complete his remarkable hattrick and to send Spurs fans home wondering of what could have been.
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