Little did I realise that when I left work, I would be heading to White
Hart Lane for what was to be the best footballing night of my life.
For 42 years I have been going to watch Tottenham Hotspur and this must
be the pinnacle of all those times I have walked along the High Road to
matches and to see Spurs so comprehensively dismantle the existing
European Champions League winners was a fantastic sight to behold.
It wasn't just a fluke win over one of
Europe's big boys, but a complete domination that brought a 3-1 win over
Internazionale that was richly deserved. Tottenham outplayed the
Italians (although there were few Italians on the pitch wearing black
and blue) so impressively that the likes of Lucio, Maicon, Sneijder and
Eto'o were made to look second rate in comparison to even the most
prosaic Spurs player. On the night, it was Glory Glory all the
way, with the boys in all white turning on one of the most memorable
displays that we will witness for many. many years.
From the start it was evident that the
second half comeback in the game a fortnight before had given Spurs the
belief that they could live with the likes of Inter and by the time we
approached half-time, there was almost a self-confident swagger about
the Spurs play, as the confidence flowed through them. Some crisp
passing opened Inter up in the first few minutes, but the final ball was
lacking from Spurs, although Sneijder had the first sight of goal on the
night, but managed to drag his shot wide. In the seventh minute,
Inter came even closer, when Eto'o moved the ball forward from the edge
of the centre circle and when he got just outside the box, let fly and
the ball fizzed past the static Cudicini's left hand post, rippling the
outside of the side-netting on the way.
A couple of minutes later and it was
Spurs threatening the Inter goal this time, with Crouch's head being a
target for the Tottenham crossing. He won one that fell just too
far away from Lennon and then Spurs moved the ball on the floor, with
Modric jinking past Lucio to hit a shot that was too close to
Castellazzi and he dropped on the ball to save. Talking about
jinking, it was about ten minutes in when Bale decided to start playing
on the left wing. Twice he left Maicon for dead with a swift
change of pace and then manoeuvred the ball past Muntari tight to the
line with a double drag-back.
Inter were still trying to probe through
the Spurs defence, with Eto'o and Biabiany almost breaching it, but
Cudicini was quick off his line to get to the ball first as the speedy
French striker burst towards the edge of the area. Wesley Sneijder
was a peripheral figure at this stage, flitting around the edge of the
play, but he did make a forward move to shoot straight at Cudicini, who
took the ball in his midriff quite comfortably.
But in the 18th minute came the moment
White Hart Lane started rocking. Assou-Ekotto had the ball on the
left and played the ball infield to Luka Modric. His bamboozling
footwork left Muntari mesmerised and moving into the edge of the D, it
looked like he was about to have another shot, but he was aware that
Rafael van der Vaart was moving off him to his left and the ball through
saw the Dutchman holding his run to stay onside. Rafa was also
aware of where the keeper was, with a quick look up, before smacking the
ball left footed into the net from about ten yards out. The crowd
went berserk as the players swamped VDV !!
Bale was enjoying the freedom that I
didn't think would be allowed him and another easy move past Maicon
brought a cross that popped up too high for Lennon to make contact,
instead having to try and jump at the waist high ball to control it.
In the 25th minute, Gareth took the ball past Maicon and with Lucio
closing in, he crossed low to Peter Crouch at the far post and his first
time volley flew across the face of goal. Everyone thought he
should have scored as he was in the six yard box, but he would have had
to fade the ball in off the outside of his foot and he had Samuel and
the keeper closing him down, so it would have been a tough skill to pull
off. You did wonder though, whether that might have been a turning
point in the game.
Internazionale then had a five minute
spell of pressure, where Zanetti moved forward and hit a shot well wide,
Biabiany was foiled by Cudicini's rush to beat him to the ball and then
Lucio struck a shot from outside the box, but it was deflected wide by
On the half hour, Bale showed he is human
after all, when he cut inside and hit a right foot shot that was way off
the mark, although a couple of minutes later, he was on the end of
Crouch's knock-down from Lennon's cross to shoot, but Lucio blocked the
effort. Lennon's next involvement saw him skip away from Samuel on
the right wing, only to find his legs taken from under him and a yellow
card being waved at the Argentine defender.
There was a moment of concern for Spurs
when Sneijder put a free-kick in the box, which Crouch won with his
head, but it hit a player in front of him, but fortunately Cudicini took
the rebound safely. Spurs turned defence into attack, with Crouch
nodding on to van der Vaart, but with players blocking his route to
goal, he played the ball back for Tom Huddlestone to shoot, but he
didn't make a good contact and the ball squirted off his foot and went
A couple of minutes before half-time a
free-kick on the edge of the Spurs box for a foul by Modric and it was
all set up for Sneijder to strike a shot at goal. And this was the
turning point of the game, as a goal then might have set Spurs back with
the interval so close. The Dutchman got his shot over the wall and
it was heading into the top corner until Cudicini leapt to push it
two-handed over the bar. it was a fine save.
van der Vaart almost picked out a cross
at the other end, but Lennon and Crouch had both gone beyond it and then
Maicon threatened the Spurs goal with a ball into the box, which was
The half-time whistle came as a bit of a
relief, with the crowd giving the Tottenham team a rousing send off to
the dressing room. What could we expect in the second half ?
Surely Inter would come at Spurs, but would that leave the vulnerable to
the counter attack ?
What we didn't expect was Rafa to be
substituted and Jermaine Jenas to replace him. Some people ion the
crowd were saying that this would mean we would be o the rack for 45
minutes, but what happened was that Luka Modric stepped up to the mark
and put in a fantastic second half display ... even better than he had
played in the first half. And Jenas didn't do bad, covering a lot
of ground to stop Inter playing through the middle. He also got
the ball out to Lennon early on and the little winger's cross saw
Crouchy try an overhead kick at the second attempt, only for it to go
about a yard sideways to Bale, who then wasn't able to get a shot off,
with the ball not coming down for him.
Bale was centre-stage again in the 52nd
minute, as Kaboul's challenge for Huddlestone's free-kick from the right
worried Castellazzi and his punch only reached the edge of the box and
Bale lobbed the ball back over his own head and that of the keeper, but
it dropped agonisingly a foot wide of the post. The keeper did
better in the next Tottenham attack, when the ball was worked from
Assou-Ekotto on the left through Modric and Jenas to Lennon on the right
and his cross found Crouch's head. The ball was going in, until
Castellazzi rose up and tipped it over the bar.
Lennon again found space on the right and
his low ball in to Gallas at the near post found the central defender a
little to far ahead of the near post to run the ball in and it went well
wide, but he got back to break up the next Inter attack with a good
interception. Both he and Kaboul were getting to the ball before
the Inter players and they both put in good performances to win the
aerial challenges and showed good marking of their opponents.
On the hour, Gareth Bale put in another
action replay of his runs at the San Siro, with a run from just inside
the Inter half, outstripping their sub Nwankwo to get to the line and
pull the ball across, taking out the keeper and his ball beating Samuel,
allowing Peter Crouch to stick out a long leg to prod the ball home from
close range. Cue delirious celebrations once more, as Inter were
opened up with ease.
Three minutes later, it was almost
another action replay, with Bale getting past Maicon tight on the dead
ball line before putting it into the six yard box for Crouch to stretch
and hit into the roof of the net, but the fifth (or sixth) official said
that the ball had gone out of play before he crossed it. He was
right on top of Bale, so had a good view of it.
With 20 minutes left, Eto'o showed what
he is capable of when he moved in from the left side of the area to
strike a shot low to Cudicini's near post, but the keeper fell on the
ball to save comfortably. Then Inter took off the ineffective
Pandev and brought on Diego Milito up front. He almost scored with
his first touch, making space on the left and pulling his shot across
the face of the Tottenham goal.
Ten minutes to go and it started to get a
bit nervy, when Inter pulled a goal back. In almost a replica of
Eto'o's shot of ten minutes previous, Sniejder and Milito engineered
some space for the Cameroonian on the left corner of the box and he
turned inside Hutton and drifted past Gallas before hitting an early low
shot to Cudicini's left and into the bottom corner. 2-1 and how
would Spurs react ? Would they sit back and try to defend the lead
? We have seen that fail before, so a nervous ten minutes lay in
With Gareth Bale looking out on his feet
and moving as far away from the bench as possible, it looked as Wilson
Palacios would replace him to waste a bit of time, but the number seven
went up and Lennon went off, with Bale left on, looking exhausted.
But Spurs kept going forward and Jenas broke on the right making a run
form halfway, before getting clattered by Lucio in the box.
Then, as the fourth official was about to
raise the board with added time, Bale picked up the ball halfway inside
his own half on the left wing. Taking the ball forward, he pushed
it past 20 yards past Lucio and with Samuel closing from a central
position, he raced onto it and got there first. He looked up and
as Samuel had not committed to meeting him, he was caught in no-man's
land, leaving Bale to pick out a ball back to substitute Roman
Pavlyuchenko (on for Crouch) to calmly side-foot home from a couple of
This time the roof nearly came off !!
The fans went mental and the players showed their relief at scoring what
must surely be the winner.
There was no time to relax, as Milito
took a 25 yard shot from the kick off and his shot grazed the top of the
bar on the way over. But right to the end, Spurs kept going
forward and Pav showed good strength to hold Samuel off under a bouncing
ball and he got into the box, but slipped as he shot and Castellazzi
took the scooped shot easily.
But then the final whistle went and the
crowd greeted it with one of the biggest cheers the old ground must have
It was a consummate performance by the
team from back to front, with everyone playing their part in a
marvellous victory that announces the arrival on the big stage after too
This must surely be the start of
something. The squad is in place, the manager seems to have them
playing the way we love to see them play and the players seem to love
With some of these performances in the
Premier League, Champions League football should be ours once more next
season and more nights like this would then become a reality rather than
the dream they have been for so long.
Marco van Hip