OPPONENTS Internazionale
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Thursday 7th March 2013
VENUE White Hart Lane






Tottenham come face to face with their opponents from the famous double header in the Champions League two seasons ago, when Gareth Bale was projected into the stratosphere with his double outstanding performances against Internazionale.  With neither team qualifying for the top European tournament this season (and Inter having to enter at the Third Qualifying round stage), both will be seeking to go further in this competition, while seeking to restore their place in the Champions League via a league placing at the end of this season.

Inter have had an up and down time.  Generally very good and being one of the few teams to defeat Juventus in the last two years, they have slipped up against some lower table sides and under Stramaccioni command.  He has some recent disagreements with players, namely Antonio Cassano, but he will most probably be restored to the team on Thursday.

Among the Inter players are well known names such as goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, midfielders Esteban Cambiassio, Javier Zanetti and Dejan Stankovic, while defenders Christian Chivu and striker Jonathan remain from out last meetings.

Former Porto man Alvaro Pereira will be well known to AVB and he is a big old unit and can be played in defence or midfield, with him more likely to be at the back with the injuries Inter have.  Their defence will be tested and as the club are under-going a change of personnel, with the side weakened by the departures of Wesley Sneijder to Fenerbahce and Phillipe Coutinho to Liverpool.  Despite the fact that there may only be a couple or three Italian players likely to feature in their team for the match, Inter will be a formidable challenge and with a number of Argentinian players and a few from the Balkans, Tottenham can expect a physical night.

They do score a lot of goal sin the last fifteen minutes of the match, so Spurs need to stay alert until the end, but I expect the club who invented "catenaccio" to employ something similar to stop Spurs running up a lead to take to Milan in seven days, but it is more likely that Tottenham will gain a slim advantage to make the second leg an interesting proposition for AVB to pit his tactical wits against those of the Italian coach Stramaccioni.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2         Internazionale    1
Tottenham are again without knee injury victims  Sandro and Younes Kaboul, while Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Clint Dempsey (calf) miss the match too.  Emmanuel Adebayor went off injured on a stretcher on Sunday and may be a doubt for the match, while Mousa Dembele, who also limped off against Arsenal, is fit for selection, along with Jermain Defoe.
Striker Diego Milito is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and also missing will be defenders Andrea Rannochia (knee) and Walter Samuel (Achilles)

ITV 1 - 19:45 (live)

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Tottenham Hotspur  3 (2)                                                             Internazionale  0 (0)
Premier League
Thursday 7th March 2013                                                                                                      Kick off 20:00
White Hart Lane
Bale 6
Sigurdsson 18
Vertonghen 57
Bale (simulation)  15  


Guarin (simulation)  72 
Pereira (foul on Lenon)  77


Crowd :   34,353 Weather :  Mild, showery
Referee :  Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain) Assistant Referees :  Pau Cebrian Devis ; Javier Rodriguez (Spain)
Fourth Official :  Roberto Diaz Perez de Palomar (Spain) Additional Assistant Referees :  Carlos Gomez ; Carlos del Cerro (Spain)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Internazionale : kit
24  Brad FRIEDEL

28  Kyle WALKER
13  William GALLAS

19  Mousa DEMBELE (29  Jake LIVERMORE 61)
  8  Scott PARKER (c)

  7  Aaron LENNON (16  Kyle NAUGHTON 61)
11  Gareth BALE      
22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON  (14  Lewis HOLTBY 70)

18  Jermain DEFOE

Unused subs: 
25  Hugo LLORIS

33  Steven CAULKER
20  Michael DAWSON

    1  Samir HANDANOVIC

40  Juan JESUS  (  8  Rodrigo PALACIO 46)
23  Andrea RANOCCHIA
26  Cristian CHIVU
31  Alvaro PEREIRA     

  7  Ricardo ALVAREZ  (42  JONATHAN 67)
  4  Javier ZANETTI (c)
19  Esteban CAMBIASSO
21  Walter GARGANO

29  Mateo KOVACIC (14  Freddy GUARIN 55    )

99  Antonio CASSANO

Unused subs: 
27  Vid BELEC
28  Simone PASA
33  Ibrahima MBAYE
24  Marco BENASSI

Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas Manager :  Andrea Stramaccioni
Sponsor :   Investec Shirt sponsor :   Pirelli
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report

It was another Glory, Glory Night at White Hart Lane for the visit of Inter Milan and for the best part of the first half, Spurs played their best football of the season in going on to take a 3-0 lead to the San Siro next Thursday.  Two headers, one from a corner and a stirring performance by captain for the night Scott Parker gave Tottenham the perfect platform to go on to bigger things.

But it us not forget the old cliché that it is only half-time and three goal leads can be dangerous ones to hold.  But, even without the suspended Bale, who picked up his third booking if the competition, the team are working as a unit to produce displays which go a long way to making you think that they might go on to progress in the Europa League.  And a lot of tat comes from the confidence that has been building in the side, bringing excellent contributions from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Aaron Lennon, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Gylfi Sigurdsson and a fine game by Scotty Parker. 

The weather was not playing ball, after a glorious day on Wednesday, the misty rain that had shrouded London all day came out to play when the game was on.  Coming into Tottenham out of Liverpool Street by train for a change, it was heartening to see a few familiar faces at the station.  Not that I know any of their names, but I see them at home games all the time.  Waiting for my son at Northumberland Park, a train emptied an out filed a stream of black and blue scarved smokers, trying to look cool in the ever gloomier conditions.  Walking up to the ground, you could feel it was a special evening.  One of my mates who walked up form Edmonton said that the streets were dead in that direction.  But that had also been the case on Sunday.  Maybe everyone is coming from the South these days ?

Anyway, walking into the ground, the programme girls was out of change, the concourses were buzzing and the pitch looked in immaculate condition.  Spurs were all having fun warming up, while the Italians were regimented and stony faced.  They were looking as if they were taking it seriously.  Anyway, the teams were announced and we had a few more survivors of the Champions League meetings than Inter.  Chivu with his Petr Cech headgear, Cambiasso and Zanetti were all still there and were among the older heads in the team. From the team list, it looked like Bianca had let  Ricky out for the night to play  for the Italians and with Jesus on their side at left back, perhaps we didn't stand a chance !!

As it turned out both the last two had nightmare games in Italy recently and showed just how tonight too.

For Spurs, Adebayor's injury had ruled him out, providing the opportunity for Defoe to return.  It had been the first opportunity Ade had provided all season.  Also back was Mousa Dembele, who had overcome his knock from Sunday to take his place alongside Parker.  It looked a solid Spurs side, but with no recognised striker on the bench, meant that an injury could set us back.

Unusually kicking towards the Paxton end in the first half, Spurs started off confidently stroking the ball around.  The crowd were up for it from the start and the Inter fans were a bit noisy, but seemed subdued al the way through ... for good reason really.  Walker's early foray up the right after being put free by Bale ended with him putting a low ball behind Bale and Gylfi Sigurdsson.   The first of many fouls on Lennon came soon after and then, Sigurdsson made a yard on the left to put a ball into the near post area, where Bale leapt higher than Cambiasso and nodded the ball down past Handanovic.  Six minutes gone and Spurs were in the lead !!  And it was that man Bale again ... both in terms of his marvellous scoring run now and his marvellous scoring run against Inter.

Within a couple of minutes, Defoe had brought a low diving save out of the Inter goalie and it looked like he would be in for a busy night.  It was like Tottenham had adopted a shoot on sight policy and Bale tested the keeper with a 25 yarder that reared up off the turf as it bounced in front of the keeper.  Any nerves Spurs might have had had disappeared with the early goal and they were hungry for more.  Bale was slipped through on the right of the box and as he went for it, the challenge came in from Gargano and while there may have been some contact, it did seem that Gareth had gone done a little easily.  It looked bad anyway.  And so the ref popped out a yellow and Bale was out of the second leg.  That would make things a little harder then.

But we need not have worried.  While Kovacic hit the ball over the top in the 17th minute, when Spurs attacked next, the ball ended up in the Inter net.  Dembele was moving through the midfield with ease and his pass out to Lennon saw the little winger square it to Defoe on the penalty spot.  Seeing the whites of the posts, he fired in a shot to Handanovic's right, which he beat out, but Gylfi was on hand to tuck the ball away from three yards out to score his first goal at the Lane.   2-0 and not yet 20 minutes on the clock.  Were we dreaming ... or was this a continuation of the games against the Italian side of two years ago ??

And it could have been more.  Twice Jan Vertonghen met corners beyond the far post and looped headers back to the side of the goal from where the ball had arrived and twice, Handanovic had to stretch to tip the ball over the top.  While Dembele was showing guile and movement to break through the midfield, Scott Parker was using old fashioned power.  His surging runs were reminiscent of a compact version of Graham Roberts, but without the rasping shot at the end of them.  Gylfi was now full of confidence and he put a ball in for Gareth to glance off target and then produced a shot of his own form 22 yards out that didn't really trouble the goalie this time.

There were only a couple of nervy moments for Spurs in the match and one came three minutes before half-time, when Cambiasso got the ball to bounce off Gallas straight into the path of "Ricky" Alvarez, who was sent clear of the defence.  With only Friedel to beat, the striker decided to take his shot early and positioned on the left side of the goal, scuffed it wide of the right hand post.  It was a great chance to get an away goal and the next time he touched the ball, his own fans booed him.

Surprisingly, the errant Inter forward was still on the pitch at the restart, with Jesus having been the one to be sacrificed.  Spurs lined up the same and that meant more of the same, as Inter failed to get any sort of grip on the game.  Usually you expect the Italian sides to at least revert to type and shut up shop from the first whistle, but this Inter side seemed unable to do that.  I had heard that they were a team in transition and without a few star names, it showed that their squad was either paper thin or didn't travel well.

Tottenham should really have been three ahead before they actually achieved that score-line.  Bale's free-kick from 35 yards out on the right might have fooled Inter into thinking the shot was on, but he crossed to the far post and Vertonghen ran in almost unmarked behind the last defender and it could only have been the dip and swerve that Bale puts on free-kicks that meant the Belgian saw the ball go under his foot when all he had to do was make contact with it to score form five yards out.  As it was the same combination got it right eight minutes into the second half to make it 3-0.  This time it was Bale's right wing corner that was flighted to the centre of the penalty area and Jan rose like Superman to power his header past Handanovic.  It was an unusual occurrence - Tottenham scoring from a corner - and with over half an hour still left to play, you wondered if the tie could be wrapped up tonight.

To try and beef things up, Inter brought on the chunky Guarin to replace the youngster Kovacic, but looking like the sort of player who would get booked for taking someone out,  the sub got a booking for throwing himself in more dramatic style than the referee had judged Gareth Bale to have done.  Definitely an 8.5 !

A couple of minutes after the hour had past, Scott Parker went on yet another surging forward run.  This is always how I remember him in games when he played against us and he freed Defoe into the right side of the penalty area, from where he hit  a low shot that the keeper got down to, but going under hid body the ball went the opposite way to his dive and luckily, it went wide for another corner.   Defoe had a chance to set up Lennon and Walker, who had burst out of their own half but you had the feeling that JD wanted a goal tonight, as a few times, he tried shots when he might have been better laying the ball off to a team-mate.  So, the next time Aaron broke away on the right side, he took the ball on himself.  Getting just inside the area, he nut-megged Chivu and as he ran to get the ball on the other side of the defender, the keeper had closed him down and smothered his shot.

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining, Spurs went to sleep when Inter got a free-kick about 30 yards out.  It was taken quickly and dinked over the sleepy Tottenham defence.  It sent substitute Palacio away into the box, but as he shot low to Friedel's left, Brad stuck out a size 10 to block the shot and the danger had past.  One goal then and the second leg would have been considerably tougher.  Then Inter would have needed two goals instead of four.

Pereira took a booking to stop Lennon getting away and shortly after, the winger went down and had to ho off, holding his thigh and it looked like a hamstring pull.  Kyle Naughton replaced him and the link up between the two Kyle son the right is something that might be an interesting proposition in years to come.

The rest of the game was played out with Spurs holding onto the ball and not being threatened by the Nerazzurri, who really needed one goal to give them something to play for at the San Siro.  As it was, the olé's were out well before the end and the only worry was that they would try to make sure that certain players didn't feature in the second leg.  But to their credit ... or their inability ... they left Spurs intact all bar Lennon, whose loss will be a bit of a worry on Sunday and maybe next week too.  With Bale suspended and if Lennon is injured, it leaves us a little light on pace, but Holtby will be able to fill in and it might mean a return to the team for one of Huddlestone or Dempsey (if they are fit), Livermore or a chance for Tom Carroll to step into the limelight.  The options are there, with a good lead and a solid performance, going through should be straightforward enough, but then you know nothing is straightforward with Tottenham.

Anything like the first meeting with Inter in the Champions league where we were 0-3 behind and without a keeper within 15 minutes and  things look slightly more tricky.  This result doesn't make us world beaters.  It doesn't see us straight through to the round of eight in the Europa League.  But what it does is show that the team are in prime form at the moment and that, on our day, we are a match for good European sides.  If all goes well, we will progress in this competition and then next season show what progress we have made in the elite European competition.

Burton Coggles


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What you thought
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Other scores during this round :
Benfica (POR) 1 Bordeaux (FRA) 0 Thursday
FC Basel (SWI) 2 Zenit St. Petersburg (RUS) 0 Thursday
VfB Stuttgart (GER) 0 SS Lazio (ITA) 2 Thursday
Anji Makhachkala (RUS) 0 Newcastle United 0 Thursday
Levante (SPA) 0 Rubin Kazan (RUS)  0 Thursday
Plzen (CZE)  0 Fenerbahce (TUR) 1 Thursday
Steaua Bucharesti (ROM)  1 Chelsea  0 Thursday



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