Holders Inter have Milan crashed to their first Champions League defeat of the season with a 3-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur
Inter crash as Bale inspires Spurs to victory
Holders Inter Milan crashed to their first Champions League defeat of the season on Tuesday when they lost 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur inspired by a brilliant individual performance from Gareth Bale.
Spurs's flying Welsh left-winger, made two of their three goals and reduced his marker, Brazilian international Maicon, to a shaking wreck for the second time in two weeks.
The home side, producing a memorable attacking performance, won with goals from Rafael Van der Vaart after 18 minutes, Peter Crouch after 61 and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko a minute from time. Samuel Eto'o scored for Inter after 80 minutes.
Victory for Inter would have secured their place in the last 16, but Tottenham now top Group A from the Italians on goal difference after Bale, who scored a hat-trick when Spurs lost 4-3 at the San Siro two weeks ago, turned creator, running half the length of the pitch to set up the second and third goals.
"It was a great performance from the team. Obviously Gareth gets all the applause - he was brilliant, but the whole team was brilliant," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp told a news conference.
"The whole team were outstanding, and that was one of the great nights at White Hart Lane and one of the best of my career.
"Gareth has given one of the best right backs in the world a most torrid time. He did it to them two weeks ago and he has done it again.
"We now have the chance to get out of this group, we are playing well and we have to keep going."
Inter manager Rafa Benitez, back in England for the first time since he left Liverpool in June, also praised Bale but was more concerned by the performance of his own team.
"We have to recover psychologically and tactically from that defeat. We do not usually get beaten like that, it was not good enough."
Redknapp promised before the game Spurs would attack Inter from the start and that is exactly what they did with Aaron Lennon marauding on the right, Bale on the left and Tom Huddlestone adding to the assault through the middle.
Inter for their part, were content to soak up what Spurs pressure they could and hit them on the counter.
Wesley Sneijder was a constant threat along with Goran Panchev, but time and again they were thwarted by Spurs's central defenders William Gallas and Younes Kaboul, standing in for the injured Ledley King and Michael Dawson.
The nature of Tottenham's non-stop attacks, and the threat Inter posed on the break created an incredible atmosphere inside White Hart Lane which exploded when Spurs took the lead after Luka Modric combined with Van der Vaart.
The Dutchman maintained his record of scoring in all five home matches he has played since joining Spurs from Real Madrid in August when he beat the offside trap and Inter's stand-in goalie Luca Castellazzi.
Bale then created a good chance which should have led to a second for Crouch after 25 minutes but the tall striker fired wide.
However, the two combined with devastating affect after 61 minutes with Bale surging down the left, leaving Maicon in his wake and crossing for Crouch to make it 2-0.
Eto'o's 14th goal of the season gave Inter some hope in the closing minutes, but their challenge ended when Bale again powered down the left and crossed for Pavlyuchenko to score the third.