Tottenham enjoyed their first slight taste of Champions League success back in 2010 when they smashed then competition holders Inter 3-1 at White Hart Lane.
Spurs had lost the reverse group stage fixture 4-3 only a few weeks prior but tore the visitors to shreds as Gareth Bale announced himself as a global force, effectively signalling the end of Maicon’s days as a world class full back.
Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring before Peter Crouch doubled Tottenham’s lead, but Samuel Eto’o pulled one back for Rafael Benitez’s side. However, Roman Pavlyuchenko wrapped things up by converting Bale’s cross in the 89th minute.
Key Talking Point
Tottenham’s visit to San Siro before this game was pretty odd.
They were so thoroughly outplayed during the first half, going four goals down inside 35 minutes with Heurelho Gomes sent off in the eighth.
Yet Bale’s second-half hat trick showed Harry Redknapp he had a weapon he could use to scare the Italian champions, and it was the Welshman’s contribution on the left that ultimately swung the second game in Tottenham’s favour.
The feel-good vibes started when Van der Vaart slammed in from close range, and the end result left Spurs’ fans in dreamland and begging for more.
Starting XI: Cudicini (7); Hutton (6), Kaboul (7), Gallas (6), Assou-Ekotto (7); Modric (8), Huddlestone (7); Lennon (7), Van der Vaart (8), Bale (10); Crouch (8).
Substitutes: Jenas (6), Pavlyuchenko (7), Palacios (6).
Maicon was the best right back in the world. That was widely considered a fact at the time. Until this game.
Here, Bale robbed him of any kind of defensive prestige. The Welshman ran riot down the left, constantly knocking the ball to the byline and crossing for his giant strikers, firstly Crouch and secondly Pavlyuchenko, to earn Tottenham one of their best Champions League wins ever.
His performance inspired a fanbase to dream big and set him on the path to becoming the superstar he is today.
Bale may not command enough respect at current club Real Madrid for the role he played in their four most recent Champions League wins, but Spurs fans never forgot how he got the rest of Europe to sit up and take notice.
Key Talking Point
Ah, the night it all came crashing down for Inter and a few of their ageing stars.
Players like Lucio, Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti and Cristian Chivu were all given the runaround, looking years past their sell-by dates despite enjoying incredible amounts of success prior to the 2010/11 season.
Inter’s last Serie A and Champions League triumphs remain the 2009/10 wins and, although things are on an upward curve under current manager Antonio Conte, it remains to be seen whether they can topple Juventus and take their place at the top of the Italian tree any time soon.
Starting XI: Castellazzi (5); Maicon (2), Lucio (6), Samuel (4), Chivu (4); Zanetti (5), Muntari (6); Biabiany (5), Sneijder (7), Pandev (6); Eto’o (8).
Substitutes: Obiora (5), Coutinho (5), Milito (6).
The former Cameroon international only ever needed a yard of space to get his accurate shots away, and he gave Inter a route back into the game with a finish from the edge of the box.
It remains a bit of a mystery how he couldn’t get more out of a backline consisting of Alan Hutton, William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, but – as they say – that’s football.
Things That Aged the Worst
Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho have never exactly seen eye to eye, and the former’s reputation as a top level manager took a bit of battering thanks to his ill-fated spell at Inter.
The former Liverpool boss took a side that had won a treble under his predecessor and proceeded to botch just about everything, resulting in his sacking before the end of 2010.
Though I Nerazzurri had felt the sting of Bale’s pace during the first game, Benitez failed to give his defence – especially Maicon – enough protection, and that ultimately cost them.
Things That Aged the Best
Harry Redknapp’s record in the Champions League remains one of the best among English managers – not that there’s much competition, that is.
The former West Ham and Portsmouth boss managed to win four of his ten Champions League games, and remembering that he edged the tactical battle against Benitez here is certainly chuckle-inducing.
As for Inter, this game came at the start of their decline as a major power in Italy and Europe, so it’s hardly a fond memory for their fans to look back on. At least Eto’o scored, reminding us all of just how good a striker he was during his heyday.
Players You Completely Forgot Existed
Not only did Tom Huddlestone play the entirety of this fixture, but he also captained Spurs on the night.
The midfielder had a few good moments during his eight-year career in north London, but orchestrating a midfield that included Van der Vaart and Luka Modric to victory over the reigning European champions has to sit somewhere near the top.
Seeing as Inter’s side was still pretty star-studded, their gong goes to Luca Castellazzi – the back-up to first choice goalkeeper Julio Cesar who endured injury problems throughout the 2010/11 season.
He was powerless to stop Tottenham’s attackers on the night, flailing around while arrowed crosses flew across his box.
What Happened Next
Tottenham topped Group A by a point, setting up a last 16 clash with Inter’s rivals AC Milan. They would win that tie 1-0 over both legs thanks to Crouch’s strike at San Siro, before going out to Real Madrid 5-0 in the quarter finals.
Inter squeezed past Bayern Munich in the first knockout stage, with a 3-2 victory in Germany taking them through on away goals, but were then smashed 7-2 on aggregate by Schalke in the quarters.
Having seen the success of the Van der Vaart signing, why didn’t Spurs try to attract players of a similar calibre, especially when they could have done with a half decent goalkeeper?
And how can a team that won the treble one season flop so hard the next? Why didn’t Inter’s chiefs plan for the future to preserve some modicum of success?
So many questions. Well, three, but you get the idea.
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