Spurs exceed great expectations as brilliant Bale batters Inter

Champions League Tottenham 3 Inter Milan 1

AS EVERY sports fan will know, the build-up to an event often proves to be more exciting than the spectacle itself. After all the hype, the waiting and the expectation, the result often disappoints.

After all, the World Cup was supposed to be a showcase for the world’s biggest talents – Lionel Messi, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney...

All too often, the big players, the ‘key men’, are crushed by the pressure and the expectation and offer little more than a cameo – or worse.

Gareth Bale’s hat-trick at the San Siro ensured that he was the boy in the spotlight again on Tuesday, once again tipped to be Tottenham’s greatest weapon.

It seemed impossible that the 21-year-old could possibly repeat his performance in Milan – but he did, and in a way this was even better.

Bale did not score a hat-trick, he did not even score once, but this time Inter knew all about him. The European champions were expecting him, they were aware of what he could do – and he did it anyway.

Most Read

Maicon won Uefa’s Defender of the Year award in August, but Bale scorched past him every single time as Harry Redknapp screamed ‘Go! Take him, take him!’ from the touchline.

The end product was two assists from pinpoint low crosses, with Peter Crouch converting to put Spurs 2-0 up in the 61st minute, and Roman Pavlyuchenko settling the contest as 2-1 became 3-1 in the 89th.

“Gareth was outstanding and you have to take into account who he was playing against,” said Harry Redknapp.

“He was up against a right-back who, before these two games, no-one could give him a chasing. I’ve watched him play over the years and he’s rated by many, many people as the best right-back in the world. So Gareth has done it against the best.

“It’s like a boxer. You might be knocking everyone out but suddenly you come up against a champion and it’s whether or not you can do it against the top people.

“Gareth’s done it again and in both games, no disrespect to the right-back, he’s given him the most torrid time. It was amazing to see him do that to such a top player.”

As an individual display, as a team performance, this was as good as it gets. Spurs fans have been waiting a long time to see their side lining up against Europe’s finest.

They know all about hype and expectation and, having drawn Inter in August, few could have dreamt that all of their wildest fantasies would come true on such a glorious night – and in such a beautifully brave way.

Tottenham did not beat the Italian giants by stifling them and nicking a couple of goals from set pieces. Tottenham won because they attacked one of the best teams in the world from the first whistle to the last, outpassed them, outran them and won every battle on the field. If there was a ‘right’ way to win, this was it.

Inter had Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o – some of the biggest names in world football. And yet, at the end, it was hard to think of a single visiting player who had outperformed his opposite number in a Lilywhite shirt.

This was the dream – Tottenham at their very best, as individuals and as a team, on the biggest stage of all, against the very toughest opponents, outplaying and beating the European Cup holders.

In isolation, this victory will go down in Tottenham history, folklore and legend, but it is doubly significant because the win matters right now, in the present – it takes Spurs to the brink of qualification for the last 16.

Ten points usually does it and Spurs now have seven. Another home win over Werder Bremen would probably secure passage even before the trip to FC Twente in early December.

Meanwhile, Inter’s defeat will keep them honest in their final two games, forcing them to give their best against Bremen and Twente.

In the end, this was just another chapter in a gripping journey which has probably just been extended.

There is so much to celebrate as Spurs fans look back to this week’s events, but there is even more to look forward to.