Friday 22 September 2017

Bale hat-trick can't hide Spurs' failings

Inter milan 4
Tottenham 3

Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o scores past Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and defender William Gallas during
their Champions League Group A match at the San Siro last night.
Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o scores past Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and defender William Gallas during their Champions League Group A match at the San Siro last night.

Sam Wallace

his team might have been crushed by four Internazionale goals in the first half but a one-man rebellion in the second half by the magnificent Gareth Bale gave this night that started so disastrously a touch of respectability for Tottenham.

A hat-trick for Bale for the 10 men of Spurs -- two of his goals coming in injury-time -- changed the complexion of this game. Because before then Spurs had been beaten in the space of 14 jaw-dropping minutes at the start of the game that saw them concede three goals and lose their goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to a needless red card.

Beaten is one word for it. One could have chosen humiliated and it would still not really do justice to the state of Spurs in the first fateful stages of the game. For their fans up in the gods of San Siro the only complaint about their view was that they had to face the pitch.

Special

Without Bale this Spurs team would have travelled back to London in the early hours of this morning on the end of a true humiliation. But Bale is a very special player and last night he took on the European champions on his own.

Spurs were hopeless in those early stages when Inter picked holes in their defence whenever they felt like it. By the end of the first half they were four goals down, two of them from Samuel Eto'o. But he was not the only Inter player who made fools of Spurs in the first half.

Even before Gomes earned a red card for a silly challenge which gave Inter a penalty, Alan Hutton and Benoit Assou-Ekotto were badly exposed with balls played into the space they left on the flanks. William Gallas and Sebastien Bassong were a complete liability. By the time Dejan Stankovic scored the third, from an Inter move of 34 passes, it was hard to imagine that Inter would settle for only four goals.

That was tough on manager Harry Redknapp who could not have expected that the team he sent out -- despite their injury problems -- would have fared this badly. Against Rafael Benitez, a manager Redknapp does not appear to like at all, this will have hurt. He can only hope that his team do better at White Hart Lane on November 2.

The first 15 minutes were watch-through-the-fingers time for the Spurs fans. For reasons that were hard to fathom, the Spurs defence collapsed every time it was attacked and their problems just got worse.

There were some extraordinary performances all over the Inter team, especially the 18-year-old Brazilian Coutinho on the left wing who gave poor old Hutton a terrible time of it. But at the centre of it were a familiar cast of characters.

Javier Zanetti scored the first, Wesley Sneijder was impossible for Spurs to pin down and Eto'o was a joyful executioner. Every time Inter went forward they looked like they would score.

The first goal came from a move that was begun by Zanetti. The ball was returned to him via Coutinho and then Eto'o and when the ball hit the net there were just 68 seconds on the clock. Yet it was about to get a lot worse.

The next catastrophe came when Gomes came out to meet the winger and cut him down thus ensuring his dismissal. He took his time to go, pretending that he thought it was Assou-Ekotto who had been dealt the red card and Luka Modric was called to the bench after eight minutes to be replaced by Carlo Cudicini, who couldn't stop the penalty from Eto'o.

The third goal arrived three minutes later. Stankovic took a pass from Maicon on the edge of the area, exchanged passes with Eto'o and clipped a shot inside Cudicini's post while the Spurs defence were still trying to sort themselves out.

It was desperate stuff. Gallas and Bassong looked vulnerable to any kind of throughball Inter attempted. The fourth came 10 minutes before the break from another ball through the centre of Spurs' defence, this time from Coutinho. Eto'o was slightly lucky with the finish but there was a pattern emerging.

Redknapp needed something from his team that they actually turned up for this game and it came from Bale who scored a brilliant goal, a goal which -- had it come under different circumstances -- would have been the talking point of the night. The left winger embarked on one of those runs down the left that left Maicon, Zanetti and Walter Samuel in his wake. Not a bad group of players to leave trailing.

Having dispatched his left-footed shot into the far corner of Julio Cesar's goal, Bale picked the ball out the net, tucked it under his arm and ran back to the centre-spot. You had to admire the 21-year-old's optimism.

Robbie Keane came on midway through the half, but he couldn't keep Bale out of the spotlight. Bale scored twice in the late stages. It was too late for Spurs to get an improbable equaliser but it was some roar of defiance. (© Independent News Service)

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