Bale keeps making hay with Spurs
Gareth Bale celebrates with goal scorer Jan Vertonghen Tottenham's third goal against Inter Milan. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Tottenham 3 Inter Milan 0:Andre Villas-Boas had preached extreme caution and simply sought to take something tangible to San Siro next Thursday in the quest for a place in the Europa League’s quarter-finals. The Tottenham Hotspur manager got much more as his team enjoyed an occasion that was memorable principally for its comfort.
There was little to get excited about regarding the mighty Internazionale and, as Tottenham cut through them, it became a question of whether the second leg would remain alive. There was glory to be had, even if the evening carried little of the barnstorming qualities of the 3-1 Champions League group stage victory here over Inter in 2010. Inter were lacklustre from back to front.
Tottenham punished their dismal defending and the only negative was Gareth Bale’s 14th-minute booking for diving, which represented his third caution of the competition and, as such, ruled him out of the return tie in Milan.
Whether he will be needed is open to question. Bale has been booked for simulation in the Premier League fixtures this season against Liverpool, Fulham and Sunderland. Bale’s engineered coming-together with Walter Gargano was a bad moment for him but it ought not to take the shine off the evening for Tottenham and Villas-Boas, who could savour the result against his former employer. He had considered the fixture as “just reward” for his team’s efforts in the competition but Tottenham are far from finished.
Villas-Boas had been determined to build upon the momentum that Tottenham had generated in recent weeks on what was a night to stir the passions. It is not every week that the three-times European champions roll into town, even if it was not part of the script that they turned up without their black-and-blue shirts. It was jarring to see them in red but it did give the home crowd the chance to wonder whether they were “Arsenal in disguise” as they struggled to find their rhythm in the first half. It had been difficult to ignore the undercurrent of history, of the Bale-fired Champions League ties from two seasons before, when the Tottenham winger ignited his global reputation and Maicon felt his crumble.
The Brazilian right-back is now at Manchester City but the Inter back four had been placed on notice as Bale roamed and drove from his new central role in the bid to fire fresh glories.
He was fundamental to everything at the outset and when he collected possession in the seventh minute on the left, a posse of Inter players swarmed to meet him. Bale simply fired low and square to Jermain Defoe, who dropped his shoulder toopen up the chance. The shot was too close to Samir Handanovic.