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Inter hold off Tottenham fightback

FC Internazionale Milano 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur FC
The holders scored three times in the first 14 minutes but, despite Samuel Eto'o's double, were left hanging on by Gareth Bale's fine hat-trick.

Inter hold off Tottenham fightback
Inter hold off Tottenham fightback ©UEFA.com

FC Internazionale Milano moved clear at the top of UEFA Champions League Group A after surviving an unlikely late rally from ten-man Tottenham Hotspur FC.

The Nerazzurri were in control from the outset, Javier Zanetti shooting them ahead in the second minute and Samuel Eto'o doubling the lead from the penalty spot after visiting goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had been sent off. Dejan Stanković made it three on 14 minutes and Tottenham looked set for a heavy defeat when Eto'o further stretched the lead before the break. Instead Gareth Bale's hat-trick made for an exciting finale, although Inter held on to strengthen their grip on the section.

Tottenham got off to the worst possible start when Zanetti struck after barely a minute had passed. The Inter captain began the move deep in his own half, picking out Coutinho and haring onto Eto'o's angled pass. Making his 83rd UEFA Champions League appearance, the 37-year-old then curled past Gomes to become the oldest scorer in the competition's history with only his second effort at this level.

Six minutes later, matters worsened for the visitors when Jonathan Biabiany was put clear by Wesley Sneijder's sweeping pass from deep. The Frenchman was too quick for the advancing Gomes who felled the winger, earning himself a red card and conceding a penalty that Eto'o stroked past Carlo Cudicini.

The substitute could do little about the third goal that soon followed either as a rampant Inter ruthlessly exploited their shell-shocked opponents' defence. Stanković played a deft one-two with Eto'o before firing in from the edge of the area.

The goalkeeper did deny Stanković and made a fine double save from Maicon, while Tottenham's only noteworthy first-half chance was a free header for Peter Crouch that cleared the crossbar. Eto'o was not so profligate and, when Coutinho played him in down the left, he slipped his sixth goal of the group stage under Cudicini.

The travelling fans were finally rewarded for their raucous support by Bale's superb individual goal on 52 minutes. The Welshman raced forward from midway inside his own half and rifled a low shot across Júlio César.

Though they were largely concerned with damage limitation, Cudicini saving well from Davide Santon, there was a sting in Tottenham's tail. With 90 minutes played, Bale surged down the left again to beat César with a near copy of his first goal. Virtually from the kick-off, Aaron Lennon skipped through before squaring for the 21-year-old to complete a remarkable hat-trick that may not have been enough on the night but gives his side heart for the return on Matchday 4.

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