Spurs taught a lesson in Milan

Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham were given a Champions League wake-up call last night as they were well-and-truly beaten by Rafa Benitez’ Inter Milan side.


Spurs were 4-0 down by half-time and did extremely well to shut-out the opposition in the second-half, with a Gareth Bale hat-trick the only good thing for Tottenham to take away from the San Siro.
Tottenham were without a few key players going into the Group A clash, although even with injured trio Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson, Ledley King and the suspended Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs would have struggled to stop what is a forceful and dominating Inter side.
Benitez has built on the treble-winning Milan side which was left to him by Jose Mourinho, who joined Real Madrid in the summer. Internazionale may have been without striker Diego Milito but Samuel Eto’o, who has spent a few years out on the wings with both Milan and Barcelona, was more-than-able to fill Milito’s position against Tottenham in a game that was literally enthralling from start to finish.
Inter’s thirty-seven-year-old captain, Javier Zanetti, may not be the quickest of players anymore but, within sixty seconds, he flew past Alan Hutton to get on the end of a crafty Eto’o pass. The Argentinean coolly placed the ball into the top corner to finish off a fine move involving Dejan Stankovic, Wesley Sneijder and the hugely impressive Philippe Coutinho.
The eighteen-year-old Brazilian played out wide for Inter but was frequently found coming inside, causing William Gallas and Sebastian Bassong all sorts of problems in the centre of defence. Redknapp chose to play an attacking line-up to face the current holders of the Champions League, although many better teams would have struggled to contain the compelling football from Inter.
Another through ball, this time from Sneijder, cut through the Tottenham defence once again, leaving Jonathan Biabiany to run through on goal. Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes could do nothing but foul the young attacker to give Inter a penalty, and a chance to double their lead, within seven minutes.
Gomes was sent off for his troubles, while Eto’o fired the resulting penalty into the top left corner, past the hapless Carlo Cudicini. With star man van de Vaart missing the chance to face his compatriot Sneijder because of a debateable second yellow card against FC Twente in the previous group game, Lula Modric was forced to step into the Dutchman’s shoes and play off striker Peter Crouch, who had a disappointing game. Modric, though, came off to allow Cudicini to come on.
This immediately meant that Tottenham were more defensive but, within two minutes of Eto’o’s goal, Stankovic scored to pile more misery onto Spurs with just fifteen minutes gone. Another fine passing move was finished off cutely by a well placed shot from the Serbian. Again, the defence were too slow to break down the Inter attacks, while Gallas and Bassong were particularly poorly positioned, with the wingers and attacking midfielders running rings around them with great ease.
Crouch had a tough task of playing up front on his own, with very little support in the first half from the likes of Bale and Aaron Lennon. The one, clear-cut opportunity that the England striker did have came just before the half-hour mark, when a fine right-wing cross found Crouch at the back post. The former-Portsmouth and Liverpool striker peeled away from his marker well and rose impressively, only to let the ball hit him rather than direct the ball past Julio Cesar in goal. The ball flew over the bar, and Tottenham had wasted their best, and only, chance of the first half.
The importance of this miss was emphasised further when Eto’o went up the other end and slotted home his fourteenth goal in eleven games this season. The Cameroon striker only managed to score sixteen goals in forty-seven games under Mourinho last season; there are very few, if any, strikers in the world right now who are better than Samuel Eto’o.
Poor defending and shaky goalkeeping meant that, before the break, both Coutinho and right-back Maicon were allowed to shoot within the box, although Cudicini managed to keep the ball out of the net to keep the score at 4-0 going into half-time.
Redknapp will have given his team the hairdryer treatment during the break and, with no physical changes to the eleven, Tottenham got themselves a goal back with forty minutes to go.
Bale has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season and is starting to be recognised as the best left-sided player in the world right now, and the Welshman did his reputation, and his price tag, no harm when he picked the ball up on the halfway line and eased past Maicon before firing past the ‘keeper into the bottom corner. Bale immediately picked the ball up out of the net and raced back to the centre-circle to waste as little time as possible in restarting the game.
With Inter 4-1 up and generally cruising, Liverpool fans must have been having flashbacks to Benitez’ Liverpool reign. With half-an-hour to go many would have expected the injured Christian Chivu to be replaced by a defender to solidify their position. With Marco Materazzi and Ivan Cordoba sat on the bench, though, Benitez made a puzzling tactical move, something which Liverpool fans became oh-so-familiar with during his reign. Striker Goran Pandev was brought on, meaning that Coutinho was forced to play in a more withdrawn midfield role, while Zanetti went to left-back. Even in a more defensive role, though, Coutinho pushed forward and the former-Vasco de Gama midfielder, who received his first senior Brazil cap recently, dragged a shot wide as Inter seemed to regain control.
Redknapp clearly needed more potency up front and, as Crouch trudged off the pitch, former Inter Milan striker Robbie Keane entered the fray. Keane, who played under Benitez at Liverpool, suffered a torrid time in Italy after Marcello Lippi, who signed the Irish forward in 2000, was sacked and his replacement, Marco Tardelli, deemed Keane surplus to requirements.
Keane was on the pitch but could only watch as Bale replicated his first goal with two minutes to go. Another fine run from the former-Southampton youngster ended with Bale firing past Cesar after leaving Zanetti in his wake. A comeback had looked extremely unlikely throughout the second half but Bale made sure that there was to be a tense finale, slotting home brilliantly after Lennon had teed him up just inside the area.
The comeback was not to be, however, and Inter held on to finish the seven-goal thriller as winners.
Inter Milan 4 – 3 Tottenham Hotspur
Zanetti 1                      Bale 52, 88, 90
Eto’o (pen) 11, 34
Stankovic 13
Elsewhere, Manchester United defeated Turkish side Bursaspor 1-0 at Old Trafford. Amid the Wayne Rooney saga winger Nani scored in the seventh minute to send them top of group C, two points ahead of Rangers, who drew 1-1 with Valencia.


Crouch guides Tottenham back into the Champions League

A Peter Crouch hat-trick capped of a fantastic night for Tottenham Hotspur as the London club reached the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history.


Crouch opened the scoring with a header within five minutes, with fellow English striker Jermain Defoe doubling Spurs’ lead just before half-time.
Another header from the lanky striker all-but-ended the match as a contest, while a late penalty was calmly put away by Crouch as Tottenham powered past Swiss side Young Boys. Defender Senad Lulic was sent off after giving away the penalty.
Tottenham will have been feeling very luck after last week’s poor performance in the first leg against the Swiss side. Spurs lost 3-2 to Young Boys after being 3-0 down after thirty minutes. Goals from Sebastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko saved Harry Redknapp’s side in Switzerland.
After defeating Stoke at the weekend Tottenham were ready for a stern test from YB. Redknapp selected a strong side to play at White Hart Lane, with Defoe putting off necessary surgery in order to play up front alongside Crouch, with Ledley King able to play a rare midweek game with his injury problems.
Redknapp had called for attacking football before the match and he certainly got his wish. With just under five minutes gone Saturday’s goal-hero, Gareth Bale, crossed in to find Crouch at the back post, unmarked. The England forward headed in from close range, giving Tottenham that early goal that they so badly craved.
The first half lacked clear-cut chances but when they came Tottenham’s way they were taken. After a clever chip from Bale, who was beginning to pull the strings for Spurs in the middle of the pitch as well as on both flanks, Defoe brought the ball down and brilliantly finished to put Tottenham two-up. The ball went in off the post but Young Boys were not happy with the goal as Defoe seemed to bring the ball down with the use of his arm.
Tottenham were in control, though, with Defoe dragging a shot wide after Aaron Lennon had slipped him in before half-time. Spurs did have a slight concern at half-time as goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes picked up a leg injury, forcing the Brazilian to take a seat on the bench to be replaced by Carlo Cudicini. The Italian, who was making his return to first-team action after a horrific car crash last season, was rarely troubled by a poor Young Boys side.
The centre-back pairing of Michael Dawson and King will be crucial to Tottenham’s success this season as the club can look forward to more games due to the Champions League. King and Dawson were both excellent at the back with Vedran Corluka and Benoit Assou-Ekotto also putting in good performances at right and left-back respectively.
Tottenham continued, after the break, to press the Young Boys defence at every moment, with Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios controlling the game in the middle. The speed of Lennon and technical ability of Bale on the wings make Spurs exciting prospects going forward, and it was from Bale, again, that another goal was created.
The Welshman looped in a high corner which was met firmly by Crouch, who was six yards out. The 6ft. 7in. striker powered home the header to all-but-finish off the Swiss side.
Crouch’s striking partner Defoe was brought off with half-an-hour to go, with Pavlyuchenko replacing the forward. It was always going to be Crouch’s night, though, and when Bale went down in the area after a Lulic challenge, Crouch stepped up to place the penalty into the bottom corner to round off his hat-trick and confirm Spurs’ place in the Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 0 Young Boys
Crouch 5, 60, (pen) 77
Defoe 32

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur

My Premier League previews continue with Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham now the team in focus. After finally breaching the top four last season Spurs will be looking to retain their place.

Champions League football will be coming to White Hart Lane this season and Redknapp has chosen to not ring the changes and buy players but instead to keep his squad. Sandro Raniere is the only acquisition, although Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Young and Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi are being linked with the club.  Brazilian Sandro is a defensive midfielder who is well known for his ball retention and quality of passing. Tottenham could find their squad stretched this season with the extra games thanks to the Champions League but they have, pretty much, got two quality players in each position. Spurs have managed to retain all their players after last season’s success; stability has finally arrived at Tottenham after the debacles that were endured under the reigns of Juande Ramos and Jacques Santini.
Redknapp has assembled a good defensive line since he was appointed manager in 2008. Ledley King and Michael Dawson have both returned from an unsuccessful England World Cup campaign in South Africa and could form a partnership this season if King can sort out the injury that has ruined the career of such a talented player. Another injury-prone English star, Jonathan Woodgate, could be on his way out of the club as the new Premier League ruling of a 25-man squad means that Redknapp needs to cut down the sixe of his side. The fact that the former Leeds defender is injured means that he could be shown the door if there is no other option. Sebastian Bassong and Younes Kaboul can also play at centre-back, while, on the right and left respectively, Spurs have the solid Vedran Corluka and the now-Premier League-experienced and attacking force that is Gareth Bale. This season is a big one for the Welshman; last season Bale played 34 times for Spurs and will be looking to improve on that this season. Tottenham ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes seems to have settled into the English game after some comical moments at the start of his Tottenham career; Spurs are going to be tough to beat this season.
The midfield of Tottenham is also extremely strong with Tom Huddlestone the player that pulls all the strings. His calmness on the pitch, quality on the ball and shooting force makes him of big importance to Tottenham. Jermaine Jenas, Wilson Palacios and Jamie O’Hara can all play in the middle and link the attack and defence, while the speed of Aaron Lennon and the quality of crossing of David Bentley and Niko Kranjcar give Spurs more width. Luka Modric is another key player for Spurs. The Croatian star plays in the attacking midfield role and not only scores goals but provides them also. His creativity and excellence on the ball will help Spurs to unlock defences next season.
One to watch in the Spurs side next season is Danny Rose. With so many quality midfield players in the Tottenham squad the former Leeds youngster could find it difficult to break into the first team. The twenty–year-old, though, has a bright future ahead of him. After making his debut for the club last season Rose scored a thunderous volley from 30 yards. Rose definitely has the talent to succeed in the top flight.
Tottenham also look strong up front with England goal scorer Jermain Defoe looking forward to another season at White Hart Lane. The former Portsmouth midfielder scored 24 in 43 games last season and will be looking to improve on that this season. Robbie Keane has returned from his “dream” move to Celtic. The striker went on loan to the Scottish giants last season and scored 16 goals in 19 games. Keane, though, will be looking to prove his worth in the top flight English football once again. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch give Tottenham another option up front, with Crouch’s sublime height and ability to bring other players into the game, and Pavlyuchenko’s goal scoring expertise. The Tottenham squad looks solid in every position; their only weakness could be the tiredness that will come with more games. It will be very interesting to see how Tottenham get on in their first game of the season (Manchester City at home) as the game pitches two sides that are aiming for a top-four finish. One side has spent £100 million-plus, while the other has remained quite conservative in their spending.
Where will they finish?: 4th
Official top four finish odds: 11/4 (Bet365)
Star man: Gareth Bale
One to watch: Danny Rose
Main weakness: Squad could be stretched with Champions League providing extra matches to their season