Crazy night: Bale treble scares Inter Milan
Gareth Bale's stunning second-half hat-trick threatened to derail Inter Milan on a crazy San Siro night after the Champions League holders swept into a four-goal lead over Tottenham Hotspur inside 35 minutes on Wednesday.sports Updated: Oct 22, 2010 21:43 IST
Gareth Bale's stunning second-half hat-trick threatened to derail Inter Milan on a crazy San Siro night after the Champions League holders swept into a four-goal lead over Tottenham Hotspur inside 35 minutes on Wednesday.
Inter went clear at the top of Group A on seven points after Javier Zanetti's strike, a Samuel Eto'o double and a goal from Dejan Stankovic — who later stomped off with a calf injury – gave them a nerve-jangling 4-3 win.
Bale grabbed his first goal in the 52nd minute as Inter wound down from their whirlwind start and the Spurs left winger netted twice again in the final minutes for a superb treble which was ultimately in vain.
"The first half we were playing really well, second half we were a bit relaxed and made mistakes," Inter coach Rafael Benitez told a news conference.
"Bale is a good player, we knew before, we know now.
We gave them too much space."
Spurs fans had dreamt of this fixture for years and spent the early evening enlivening Milan's transport system with endless songs on their way to the ground.
It took only two minutes though for the harsh reality of European football to strike the Champions League debutants cold and the source of Inter's opener was even more galling.
Captain Zanetti, 37 and in his 15th year with Inter, calmly scored his first club goal since Feb. 2008 when Tottenham's shaky defence lost him as he ran on to a pass from Eto'o.
He ran away kissing his badge and part of the San Siro gave him an impromptu standing ovation given the huge regard they have for the Argentine, who will always be remembered for his mad stare as he lifted the Champions League trophy aloft in May.
The Tottenham fans high up in the third tier above keeper Heurelho Gomes's goal were even more stunned minutes later when the keeper was sent off for bringing down Jonathan Biabiany.
The manner of the dismissal was in keeping with the madcap nature of the match, Gomes at first refusing to leave the field after being shown the red card.
He retreated to the goal as if to take his place for the resulting penalty only for the referee to follow him, consult his goalline assistant and brandish the red card a second time.
Carlo Cudicini was brought on but he could do nothing about the Eto'o penalty or Stankovic's third on 14 minutes.
The game looked to be over as a contest but the away fans were still determined to make the most of the occasion.
They chanted at full voice to the amusement of the Inter faithful, who thought they were heading for an easy win when Eto'o grabbed his second of the night, sixth in the Champions League this term and 14th in 12 club games this season. "At halftime we'd have all taken 4-0 for sure. You could see more damage coming in the second half," said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.