"Bale is against a guy rated as the best right-back in the world; what he's done is amazing." Harry Redknapp
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Tournament newcomers Tottenham Hotspur FC left their fans in dreamland with a victory against FC Internazionale Milano that lifted them above the UEFA Champions League holders to the Group A summit.
Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko got the goals that rewarded some wonderful attacking football from the hosts. Not least Gareth Bale, who followed up his San Siro hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat in the reverse fixture a fortnight earlier with another thrilling display of wing play, claiming two assists and giving Maicon a torrid time.
The English side's five previous UEFA Champions League games had yielded 25 goals and this was another open game full of positive intentions. Samuel Eto'o and Luka Modrić had already threatened at either end when the latter fashioned Spurs' opener after 18 minutes.
The Croatia midfielder jinked past Sulley Muntari then slid a superb reverse pass to Van der Vaart and the Dutchman, his run timed to perfection, made no mistake. Spurs should have had a second when Bale sped past Maicon and delivered a far-post cross that Crouch sliced wide on the volley.
Inter saw more of the ball as the half came to a close and Carlo Cudicini, deputising for the suspended Heurelho Gomes, was forced to tip over Wesley Sneijder's free-kick. The force was with Spurs, though. Bale hooked a shot a whisker wide with Luca Castellazzi stranded, but the Inter keeper was soon on hand to tip over Crouch's header.
On the hour Spurs got their second and it was no surprise that Bale was the architect. The 21-year-old raced from the halfway line, leaving two Inter players in his wake, before crossing low for Crouch to slide the ball in. The pair did it again soon after but Bale had let the ball run out of play before crossing.
Eto'o ensured some jitters when he found the bottom corner for his seventh goal in the group stage ten minutes from time, but Tottenham made sure as Bale broke free again to tee up Pavlyuchenko. There was still time for Diego Milito to hit the crossbar but it was Spurs, and Bale, celebrating.
"The boy can run and run and run," manager Harry Redknapp said of Bale. "He's against a guy rated as the best right-back in the world and what he's done over the last two games is amazing." Few at White Hart Lane disagreed.