For the first thirty five minutes of this match, it looked as though
Spurs might be heading for their record defeat and the record defeat in
the competition after a nightmare start to the game against Inter Milan.
But then, with a lack of numbers, they made Milan look fallible and
almost pulled off a stunning comeback.
With a goal scored by Javier Zanetti inside
the first two minutes and on eight minutes being down to ten men, when
Heurelho Gomes was sent off in conceding a penalty, it looked like all
the evils had come to visit Tottenham at once. The first goal came
as a result of some crisp passing and movement that saw Jermaine Jenas
leave Zanetti to run wide on the left of the Spurs box to curl past
Gomes from 15 yards out. 75 seconds gone and Spurs had been pulled
around by the home team's passing and they were soon to be opened up
A quick pass from the centre circle freed
Biabiany on the Inter right and the ball had been playing inside a
static Assou-Ekotto. By the time he had turned the French striker
was ahead of him and heading for the area, where Gomes came out to meet
him and upended him after the ball wad dinked over him. BAE
covered and got to the ball before the Inter man, but the referee had
blown for a penalty and following consultation with the official behind
the goal, produced the red card for our Brazilian keeper.
At that point a thrashing was on the
cards, with Eto'o stepping up to convert the spot-kick past Carlo
Cudicini, whose first task was to pick the ball out of the back of the
net. Luka Modric had been the unfortunate player who had to make
way for Cudicini to come on, but it was the move that meant that little
was sticking up front, with Peter Crouch playing the lone striker role
already and now having on less player to support him to lay it off to.
With Jenas and Huddlestone having to put
a lot of effort in to keep the middle of midfield shored up, the third
goal came as a bit of a body blow. Thirty odd passes led up to the
goal, with Eto'o playing Dejan Stankovic in to side-step weak challenges
from Huddlestone and Bassong to pick his time to slide the ball into the
right hand bottom corner of Cudicini's net for 3-0 in the 14th minute.
The Spurs players might have been a little terrified to tackle, with one
player already having been dismissed, but it was a piece of poor
defending that gave Inter a big lead with less than an eighth of the
At this stage of the match, it was just a
question of how many Internazionale might score, as they looked capable
of netting every time they went forward. As for Spurs, they were
doing well to hold onto the ball and keep it away from their goal.
Cudicini stood as Eto'o smashed a volley to high and then the keeper had
to dive to beat out Stankovic's volley that he struck into the ground
and the Italian was lucky to see the ball be hacked away after
originally hitting Gallas in the back.
Tottenham's first chance of the game came
when Aaron Lennon found himself in space on the right wing.
Without anyone to back him up, he made towards the dead-ball line, then
returned the way he came when faced with two defenders, putting a good
left footed cross to the far post, where Peter Crouch had jumped too
soon and headed the ball as he was on the way down and putting it over
the top. A better jump would have given him a good opportunity to
get an effort on target or to head it back across goal.
Spurs were defending with great heart, as
Hutton and Bassong both threw good blocks in front of shots from
Biabiany and Eto'o, but in the 35th minute, the fourth goal came for
Milan and it looked then as it would be the one that knocked the
stuffing out of Tottenham. The young Brazilian Coutinho had made
some good moves on the ball, but his pass into the left hand side of the
Spurs box, once more found a player breaking onto it and this time it
was Eto'o, who prodded the ball as Gallas closed him down and Cudicini
came out, getting a bit of luck as the ball hit the keeper, but bounced
up off him and into the net to make it 4-0.
The keeper got a good save in when Eto'o
was once more presented with a shooting chance, getting behind the ball
and spilling it, but pouncing on the loose ball to gather it in and then
he had to be sharp to beat out two shots from the right as full back
Maicon strode forward into the area and Carlo stopped one shot at his
near post and then as the defence failed to respond to the rebound, he
reacted well to keep out another powerful drive.
Those stops kept Spurs 0-4 behind when
the half-time whistle blew and we all waited to see how the team would
cope in the second half, with heavy legs and a man down. The Spurs
fans were concerned and while they had been in good voice until the
second goal, a subdued atmosphere hung over the upper tier they
When the second half started, Spurs made
a good beginning, with Lennon making the Italian defence look slow by
darting away to fire a cross in, but it was too hard for Tom Huddlestone
to make up the ground to get on the end of it. An early
substitution brought on David Santon for the injured Stankovic and the
change seemed to upset Inter to start with. When an attack broke
down, Huddlestone picked up the ball and played it to Peter Crouch, who
touched it on to Gareth Bale just twenty yards inside his own half.
With one or two touches of the ball, he had motored into the opposition
half, racing past Maicon and then Zanetti, as he ran into the box and
with Cesar neither getting close to him or narrowing the angle, he
struck a low shot to the keeper's left and the ball nestled in the
netting down by the stanchion to make the score 4-1.
Inter Milan tried to settle down to
playing their passing game and when Santon struck a low shot, Cudicini
did well to flop down to his right to palm the ball around the foot of
the post, but on the hour, Lennon put in a cross that found it's way to
Bale on the far post and he looked like he was going to shoot, but
pulled it back for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who fired it high over the bar.
It came to the part of the match when a
number of substitutions were made and one for Spurs was Keane on for
Crouch and another was Palacios replacing Huddlestone. Palacios
earned a booking and Keane made an impact by buzzing around the last
third. Spurs were surprisingly looking more comfortable and were
holding onto the bal la lot better, as Inter sat off them a bit.
However, it took a great run by Hutton cutting in from the right to hit
a left footer that was always going over the top
Then, in the last minute of the 90, Bale
nipped the ball away form Lucio on our left wing. The ball ran
free and Jenas played a purposeful pass in front of the Welshman, who
picked up the ball five yards in the Inter half, before going on an
action replay run of the first goal and finishing in the same manner
past a similarly statuesque Cesar. 4-2 and Bale was quick to get
the ball back from the net, even though the game looked lost.
With two minutes showing on the fourth
official's board, Spurs took possession when Jenas got the ball off
Santon inside the Inter half, passed to Lennon on the right and he cut
inside to run across the face of the 18 yard line and then released it
to Bale, who struck a first time left foot shot that flashed past Cesar
in the same way the previous two goals had and as the ball struck the
stanchion in the back of the goal, Gareth was celebrating his hat-trick.
What seemed a lost cause, was now
becoming a salvageable situation. Spurs had time for one more
attack, when Bale was stopped and claimed a handball, but the play was
waved on and then it was over.
What started out to be a bit of a rout,
suddenly finished all too soon, as Spurs had the reigning Champions
League champions on the rack. It might be a different story in the
second group game against them in two weeks time, but we will have VDV
back and Rafa Benitez will realise that it might be a sterner test than
he might have thought after 14 minutes of this game.
As for Spurs, they left the San Siro with
their heads held high and showed that the Italians are just as
vulnerable as we are to letting goals in. None in their previous
five, but three against Spurs. Here's to that record being added
to in the game at the Lane on 2nd November.