Tottenham Hotspur comfortably beat Inter Milan in the first leg of their Europa League tie.
Spurs got things under-way on a chilly night at White Hart Lane and attacked Inter immediately.
Two minutes in, Kyle Walker ran down the right and crossed in to the box. The ball managed to pass both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Gareth Bale without either man getting a touch and Sigurdsson swinging at the air.
Four minutes later, Spurs were in the lead. A throw-in arrived at Sigurdsson’s feet on the left hand side. He crossed it in and Bale jumped, unchallenged, to head the ball in to Handanovic’s bottom left.
After eight minutes, Bale was off down the left wing and cut inside to Jermain Defoe. The diminutive striker cut inside and struck from 18 yards out, but his shot was well saved when he should have done better.
Spurs were really starting to show some swagger at this point, passing the ball around wonderfully as their dumbstruck Italian opponents looked on in frustration.
Bale tried a long-distance effort in the thirteenth minute, but it was straight at Handanovic.
Not only were Spurs playing well on the ball at this stage, they were really biting down hard on Inter’s heels whenever the Italians were in possession.
On the fourteen minute mark, Bale went down in the box and was adjudged to have dived. The Welshman was booked and will miss the return leg in Milan.
Inter had their first real attack a minute later, but Antonio Cassano’s final ball was poorly dummied and came to nothing.
In the seventeenth minute, Inter had their first shot at goal, as Kovacic struck over. Despite a deflection off a Tottenham defender, a goal kick was given.
One minute later, Moussa Dembele put Aaron Lennon free on the right side of the box, he passed square to Defoe who turned and shot. Handanovic could only parry as Sigurdsson followed up to tap it in and double Spurs’ lead.
Inter were looking despondent as Cassano went down under a soft challenge from William Gallas on 21 minutes.
Spurs were winning everything in the middle of the park and were looking so comfortable at this point, but a poor kick by Brad Friedel almost gave Inter an opening after 25 minutes.
A couple of minutes later, Spurs took a short corner that was then crossed in by Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen got on the end of it with a looping head that had to be tipped over by Handanovic.
A quiet spell ensued as both teams took turns in possession, but to no avail for either of them.
On 35 minutes a bit of trickery from Defoe was followed with a left-footed cross in to the box from Sigurdsson. Bale again got on the end of it but his header was wide this time.
Sigurdsson tried a 30 yard effort after some good work from Dembele on 39 minutes, but it was tame and Handanovic easily gathered.
On 40 minutes, a great bit of play and a clever ball from Vertonghen set Defoe free, but the England man was beaten to the ball and Spurs came away with only a throw-in.
Two minutes later, a deep Bale corner was met by Vertonghen who again tested Handanovic with a header.
A quick counter-attack from Inter immediately saw Cassano put Alvarez clean through on goal, but he shot wide. Inter’s best chance of the game by far at this point.
Alvarez was again a threat a minute later, striking from distance, but the shot was deflected just wide from a corner which came to nothing.
As half time approached and a single minute of injury time was announced, Inter were on top for the first time in the match, but they couldn’t pull one back as Spurs went in at the end of the first period two goals to the good.
Inter kicked off the second half with leading scorer Rodrigo Palacio having replaced Juan Jesus at half time.
Less than a minute in, Bale, Sigurdsson and Defoe combined to almost put Sigurdsson through on goal, but it was cleared.
In the 48th minute, Bale was fouled by Pereira on the right and gained Spurs a free kick which he stepped up to take himself. He looked like he was shaping to shoot, but crossed the ball to the back post where it was nearly met by Vertonghen, who should have scored, but the ball went safely out of play for an Inter goal kick.
Pereira out-muscled Lennon on the left side of the Spurs box in the 51st minute and struck towards goal, but it went wide of the far post.
Less than a minute later, Defoe was set free down the right and his cross was blocked, resulting in a corner. Bale took it and Vertonghen got his head on the end of it to put Spurs three goals up.
Inter made their second change after 55 minutes, bringing Fredy Guarin on for the teenager Kovacic.
After a five minute quiet spell, Bale charged forward, surrounded by Inter defenders, but still managed to get a shot in on goal. His 15 yard effort hit the side netting.
Inter were looking increasingly rattled, as the usually reliable Esteban Cambiasso sent a pass horrifically wide of his intended target. The resulting throwing ended up with Defoe through on goal and Handanovic made an excellent stop and pushed the ball round the post.
Jake Livermore replaced Moussa Dembele on the 64 minute mark. The Belgian being taken off to ensure his fitness for the Liverpool game on Sunday, as he was a doubt before this match started. He performed brilliantly in this game, winning absolutely everything.
On 66 minutes, Lennon won possession on the edge of the Spurs box and set Defoe free. The striker ran the length of the pitch with Bale, Lennon and Walker supporting him at break-neck speed in what looked like a 100 metre sprint race, but he lost it when he should have passed to one of his team-mates.
Inter made their final substitution on 67 minutes with Jonathan replacing Alvarez.
Spurs continued to press and a cross from Sigurdsson landed at Defoe’s feet just inside the box on 68 minutes, but he was challenged and Inter cleared.
Parker and Lennon combined a minute later and Lennon was through on goal, but the little winger knocked the ball a touch too far and Handanovic came out to meet his shot.
In the 71st minute, the impressive Gylfi Sigurdsson was replaced by Lewis Holtby.
Inter threatened for the first time in a while, as Cambiasso out-muscled Walker and crossed towards Palacio who couldn’t get on the end of it.
Fredy Guarin got the second yellow card for diving in this game on the 72 minute mark, as Gallas pulled out of a challenge only for the Colombian to take a dramatic tumble.
Andre Villas-Boas was then seen asking both Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale if they want to be substituted, but both men said ‘no’!
On 74 minutes, Palacio was put through on goal by a quick free kick and Friedel made an excellent save with his feet as Inter looked to start pressing for that elusive away goal, which would make such a big different to the tie’s complexion.
Alvaro Pereira was booked in the 77th minute for abruptly taking down Aaron Lennon who had been running Inter ragged all night.
Lewis Holtby looked to add to Spurs’ tally in the 80th minute, striking a left footed drive from 20 yards, but a deflection took the sting out of the shot and it went safely in to Handanovic’s hands.
Aaron Lennon had to be replaced in the 82nd minute, due to an injury, as Kyle Naughton came on to replace him. Perhaps he should have said ‘yes’ to AVB a few minutes earlier!
In the 85th minute, Cassano swung a dangerous ball in to the Spurs penalty box, but Guarin couldn’t get on the end of it.
A great Spurs move (in which the fans were cheering each pass, as it had gone on for so long) ended when Naughton crossed from the right, but it was straight in to the welcoming arms of Handanovic.
Straight after, Inter attacked and Guarin’s long distance effort was blocked by Gallas, which deflected the ball straight at Friedel in the Spurs goal.
3 minutes of added time was announced as Spurs attacked, with Defoe taking too long, allowing Inter to smother him and block his shot from just inside the area.
A strong run from Zanetti saw the Argentinian release Jonathan, but the Brazilian was offside as Spurs waited eagerly for the final whistle.
Brad Friedel hoofed the ball forward as the referee brought the match to a close. Spurs will take a 3-0 lead to the San Siro next week, having completely dominated this match in every area of the pitch.
- Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz.
- Attendance: 34,353.
Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Dembele (Livermore, 64), Parker, Lennon (Naughton, 82), Sigurdsson (Holtby, 71), Bale, Defoe.
Handanovic, Zanetti, Ranocchia, Chivu, Juan Jesus (Palacio, 46), Gargano, Cambiasso, Alvarez (Jonathan, 67), Kovacic (Guarin, 55), Pereira, Cassano.
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This article was first posted on March 8, 2013