The chinks in Inter Milan's armour were exposed again by Gareth Bale in Tottenham Hotspur's 3-1 Champions League win over the holders as all three teams capable of reaching the next stage flopped on Tuesday.
Like Inter, 2009 winners Barcelona only needed victory to go through with two games to spare but drew 1-1 at FC Copenhagen in Group D to show nothing can be taken for granted this season. Olympique Lyon’s three-game winning streak and hopes of a quick passage to the first knockout round were dashed in a 4-3 defeat at Benfica in Group B, the latest in a series of European matches with goals and passion galore.
Manchester United were the only group leaders who could not guarantee qualification this week but they took a big leap towards it, thanks to Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe netting in a 3-0 win at Turkey's Bursaspor. Valencia beat Rangers 3-0 to leapfrog their opponents into second in Group C. Bale made Europe sit up and take notice with his hat-trick in the 4-3 defeat at the San Siro two weeks ago and the Welsh winger added another few million to his transfer value as Inter again failed to handle his pace.
Rafael van der Vaart, suspended two weeks ago, sent White Hart Lane mad with a first-half goal after good work by Luca Modric but the Dutchman was substituted at the break with a nagging injury.
Peter Crouch scored next in the 61st minute when he slid in after Bale whipped in the perfect cross. Samuel Eto'o bagged his seventh goal for Inter but Roman Pavlyuchenko converted another Bale pass a minute from time as Tottenham went top on head-to-head record.
When coach Pep lost his cool
Barca’s mild-mannered coach Pep Guardiola had an uncharacteristic loss of cool after his side was held to a draw. Pep argued with his counterpart Stale Solbakken on the touchline after the whistle and slammed the Norwegian in his post-match conference. “Ask him (Solbakken) what happened, he knows how to manipulate the media very well,” Guardiola told the Spanish media.
The dispute goes back to Barca's 2-0 win over the Danish champions last month, when goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto tricked Cesar Santin into believing he was offside.