Live Commentary: Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Inter Milan - as it happened

Spurs' Gareth Bale opens the scoring against Inter Milan on March 7, 2013
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Sports Mole brings you live text coverage of tonight's Europa League clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan.

Tottenham Hotspur put themselves in pole position to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a 3-0 win over Inter Milan in the first leg of their tie this evening.

Gareth Bale opened the scoring for the hosts after just five minutes, and Gylfi Sigurdsson added a second just over 10 minutes later.

Jan Vertonghen got the third with an unmarked header from a corner, meaning that Spurs will take a handsome lead into the second leg at the San Siro next week.

You can read how it all unfolded with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute coverage below.


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7pmGood evening! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for tonight's game between Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan. Let's get straight down to business.

7.02pmTonight's match is arguably the biggest of the Europa League last-16 ties, with both sides considered genuine contenders to go all of the way and win the competition.

7.04pmThe quality of football on show should also make for a fantastic spectacle - remember, it was just two years ago that these two sides clashed in the Champions League, throwing up two classic matches that are still being talked about today. If anything, Spurs have improved even further since those days so hopefully tonight's match could eclipse even those Champions League games!

7.06pmBoth sides are currently embroiled in a battle to achieve Champions League qualification next season as well. They may give their all in the Europa League tonight, but you can be sure that if either side finds themselves in this competition again next season, they will be bitterly disappointed.

7.08pmDomestically, Spurs are sitting pretty in third place in the Premier League table at the moment. They are in the best position of the bunch of teams still hoping for a top four spot next season, but they will need to keep up their recent good form to hold off the challenge of both Chelsea and Arsenal, and perhaps even Everton and Liverpool.

7.10pmInter, meanwhile, are struggling somewhat by their standards in Serie A. They are currently in fourth, one point behind bitter rivals AC Milan. However, the competition for a Champions League spot is arguably even greater in Italy than it is in England. Inter are level on points with fifth-placed Lazio and just two points clear of Fiorentina in sixth.

7.12pmSo both sides still have everything to play for domestically, but that shouldn't detract from the quality I expect this game to possess. Both teams have players capable of creating something out of nothing - that magic moment that is so often the difference in matches such as these.

7.12pmAnd we're about to see some of those players in the upcoming team news...

7.14pmTEAM NEWS: Brad Friedel returns in goal for Spurs, as he has done throughout this European campaign, while Jermain Defoe starts up front.


7.15pmTOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STARTING XI: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Dembele, Parker; Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson; Defoe

7.16pmTOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUBS: Lloris, Holtby, Naughton, Livermore, Caulker, Carroll, Dawson

7.17pmINTER MILAN STARTING XI: Handanovic; Zanetti, Ranocchia, Chivu, Juan; Gargano, Cambiasso; Alvarez, Kovacic, Alvaro Pereira; Cassano

7.18pmINTER MILAN SUBS: Belec, Guarin, Palacio, Benassi, Pasa, Mbaye, Jonathan

7.20pmSo, no huge surprises for either side really. Defoe was always expected to start for Spurs after Adebayor picked up a knock in the North London derby at the weekend. Dembele and Parker continue their partnership in the middle while Gylfi Sigurdsson gets the nod alongside Bale and Lennon.

7.21pmInter, meanwhile, opt for Cassano up front on his own with Kovacic offering support. Rodrigo Palacio only makes the bench for Stramaccioni's side, while fellow top scorer Diego Milito doesn't make the squad.

7.23pmIn terms of dangermen, we know all about Tottenham's. Gareth Bale has been in scintillating form of late and Inter will be fully aware of what he can do after their meetings in the Champions League two years ago. Many people feel that those were the games that first really put Bale on the map, and I'd be inclined to agree with them.

7.25pmOther than Bale, though, Inter will have to be alert against the pace of Lennon, particularly coming up against the likes of Zanetti, while Sigurdsson and Dembele can pop up with a goal when needed too. Jermain Defoe is currently going through a bit of a goal-drought, but he is the type of player who is always a threat to the opposition keeper.

7.27pmFor Inter, Cassano is always going to be a threat as long as he is on form, but the Italian can be mecurial to say the least. Behind him, Alvarez, Kovacic and Pereira will operate in a similar formation to that of Spurs and, although they don't represent a huge goal threat, they have the ability to pick a pass through the Tottenham defence.

7.29pmThere is no doubting who comes into this one in better form. Tottenham have lost just once - to Leeds in the FA Cup - since December 9 and are unbeaten in their last seven games. Their last outing was a morale-boosting 2-1 win over local rivals Arsenal in the North London derby.

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7.31pmThey are also unbeaten at White Hart Lane in the Europa League this season. Their opening game saw a 0-0 draw with Lazio, since when they have won each of their three European games at home. Domestically, their home record is impressive too. They are unbeaten in 12 games in front of their own fans - a run that stretches back to November 3.

7.33pmInter, meanwhile, have had an inconsistent time of late. They have won four, lost three and drawn three of their last 10 games in all competitions, although they are unbeaten in their last three matches.

7.35pmTheir away record in this season's Europa League is more impressive, however. They have won five of their six European games on their travels, although their one loss was a heavy 3-0 defeat at the hands of Rubin Kazan. They have won their last two away games in all competitions but, before that, picked up just one point from nine away games in a row.

7.37pmOf course, much of the pre-match build-up to this one has centered around the Champions League meeting two years ago, so let's have a little reminder of just what happened then...

7.39pmWell, the first match was a very eventful one. Spurs went down to 10 men very early on after Gomes got sent off. Inter raced into a 4-0 lead, but Spurs almost pulled off a dramatic comeback courtesy of a hat-trick from Gareth Bale, two of which came in second half stoppage time.

7.41pmSpurs got their own back in the return fixture, however. Goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko handed the London side a 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane. Samuel Eto'o got Inter's goal.

7.43pmThere is a very real possibility that the winner of this tie will go on to win the whole tournament. There aren't many stronger teams than Tottenham and Inter left in this one, so whoever gets knocked out it will be good news for the rest of the competition.

7.45pmOf course, none of that will be decided tonight. We will have to wait until the return leg next Thursday for the final confirmation of who makes it through, but both sides will be hopeful of a positive result in tonight's match to set them up nicely for the second leg.

7.47pmFrom Tottenham's point of view, a good result would be 2-0 or over, I'd expect. Inter will be confident of overturning a one-goal deficit at the San Siro, so Spurs will be eager to give themselves a bit of daylight going into the away leg. Inter, meanwhile, would see a draw as a positive result for them. A 0-0 draw would suit them, I'm sure, but an away goal would be a real bonus for the Italian giants.

7.49pmOften when two evenly-matched teams go head-to-head, fans look for any advantage that their team might hold. For Inter, that advantage could come with having the second leg at home. There is no doubt in my mind that it is better to be at home for the return leg, but it will only be an advantage if they do a professional job tonight. They can't afford to lose the tie by conceding too many tonight.

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7.51pmEnglish teams have already been in action in the Europa League this evening. Newcastle played out a respectable 0-0 draw away to Anzhi Makhachkala earlier today, while Chelsea have just been beaten 1-0 by Steaua Bucuresti.

7.53pmTottenham have a chance to become the only English team to win in the Europa League tonight, then. They are overwhelming favourites with the bookies due to their recent fine form.

7.55pmPREDICTION TIME: The pressure is on with this prediction - I have got the last two spot on so I'm going for an unlikely hat-trick! The quality on display means that this one could go either way, but Spurs are big favourites for a reason. I think they will win, but Inter won't make it easy for them. I'll go for 3-1 to the home side.

7.57pmI wouldn't be surprised to see Bale get on the scoresheet tonight either. He has been prolific lately and seems to raise his game when Spurs need him to do it most (West Ham and Arsenal come to mind).

7.59pmAt the same time, he will be come up against Javier Zanetti, and veterans don't come much more wily and streetwise than him. He has come up against some of the world's best players in his illustrious career, so Bale won't be the biggest or baddest opponent he has ever faced.

8.01pmZanetti is the highest appearance maker in the history of Inter Milan, and what a servant he has been. He has made 835 appearances for the Italians in his 18 years at the club.

8.03pmWe're getting closer and closer to kickoff here. There is an atmosphere that surrounds big European games that just make them so special, and this one is no different. As great as the Premier League is, sometimes it just can't compare to nights like these.

8.05pmWe're ready to go here at White Hart Lane!

0 minTottenham get us underway!

2 minA rather slow start to the match sees both sides easing their way into this one. Walker whips a cross in which Bale tries to hit first time, but he misses it completely.

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4 minLennon goes down under a challenge from Juan as he went for a one-two, but the ref waves his claims away. Spurs look to be searching for a route down that right side in these early stages.

5 minGOAL! Spurs 1-0 Inter Milan (Gareth Bale)

6 minWhat a dream start for Spurs! Sigurdsson works space to whip a cross in and does exactly that, while Bale rises to meet. He glances it past Handanovic, who can do nothing about it. Cambiasso may have been able to do more to put Bale off, but it's another goal for the Welsh winger. Can anyone stop him?!

7 minCHANCE! Bale almost turns provider as he finds Defoe on the edge of the box. The England striker twists and turns before firing a powerful shot towards goal. Handanovic is on his way out when the shot comes at him, but he reacts well to beat it away. Very bright start from the hosts.

9 minInter are really struggling to get themselves into this one. I don't think Cassano has had a single touch of the ball yet.

11 minInter lose the ball in a very dangerous position but Parker, Defoe and Bale can't work a chance between the three of them as Chivu picks off the attempted final pass.

12 minSHOT! Bale's confidence is, understandably, sky high at the moment and he goes for goal from some 30 yards out. This time it's an easy stop for Handanovic, though.

14 minYELLOW CARD! There's the other side of Bale that is becoming increasingly worrying. Bale exchanges passes with Parker and is released inside the Inter box. His touch is slightly heavy but he still gets there ahead of Gargano, who pulls out of the challenge at the last second. Bale goes down claiming for a penalty, but the ref correctly books him for diving, which will put him out of the return leg. Silly yellow.

16 minSHOT! That's Inter's best passage of the match so far. It all starts with the evergreen Zanetti marauding down the right, and eventually Cassano works it to Kovacic, whose shot goes just over.

18 minGOAL! Spurs 2-0 Inter Milan (Gylfi Sigurdsson)


18 minThings get even better for Spurs. They just keep on pouring forward and look dangerous every time they do so. This time Dembele gives it to Lennon, who cuts it back into the middle of the box. Sigurdsson is steaming in, but Defoe steals it off his toe and goes for goal himself. Handanovic pulls off a fine save, but the while the Inter defence are ball-watching Sigurdsson nips in to slot the rebound in.

20 minAt 2-0 after just 20 minutes you have to worry about Inter's chances in this whole tie. Spurs are playing some really good football and I would be very surprised if they don't add more to their tally today. 3-0 could just be tie over after the first leg.

22 minParker bursts down the right trying to set up that killer third goal. He feeds it in to Defoe, who for once looks for a pass instead of shooting. He tries to slip Lennon in, but the attempt is intercepted and runs harmlessly back to the keeper.

24 minInter really have not got going offensively at all so far. Every time they try and pour forward they are easily dispossessed and Spurs launch another attack. Part of the problem is Inter's unwillingness to commit too many men forward due to Tottenham's quality on the counter attack.

26 minCHANCE! Spurs play a corner short and Sigurdsson swings a cross in from a similar position to the one that led to Bale's goal. This time it goes deeper, where Vertonghen is waiting unmarked. It is a bit high for him but he does well to direct it goalwards, and Handanovic is forced to tip the looping header over the bar with Gallas waiting.

28 minDefoe receives the ball on the edge of the area and immediately looks to turn and shoot. This time he is closed down quickly, but Spurs have had a bit of joy feeding Defoe in those sort of areas so far.

30 minInter's best spell in the Tottenham half results in a corner. Cassano takes it with the ball clearly out of the allotted corner-taking area, but it comes to nothing as Ranocchia heads it wide.

32 minSigurdsson and Pereira clash shins in a 50/50 challenge, which leads Cassano to kick the ball out. Far be it from me to take away from his sportsmanship, but it was not a serious injury by any means and Cassano had a chance to attack the Spurs defence then. He should have played on!

34 minCHANCE! Sigurdsson and Bale almost link up for another goal! Some fluid, one-touch passing gives Defoe the ball on the edge of the area. His pass finds its way to Sigurdsson, who whips a cross in on the turn. Bale rises highest to get his head to it, but he doesn't get enough on it and it doesn't trouble Handanovic.

36 minSpurs are pretty much camped in the Inter half at the moment. They are in complete control of this one.

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38 minSHOT! Dembele carelessly lets the ball roll under his foot, gifting Inter the ball. They don't make the most of it, though, as Cassano passes it straight back to Sigurdsson who goes for goal from 25 yards or so. His effort is bobbling and low, but Handanovic gets down to gather comfortably enough.

40 minVertonghen clips a ball down the right for Defoe to chase. Ranocchia just beats him to it, but concedes a throw-in in the process. Spurs recycle it and Assou-Ekotto swings a dangerous ball in that is put behind for a corner.

41 minThe corner is aimed at the far post where Vertonghen is waiting. He knocks it back across goal but Handanovic collects with ease.

42 minCHANCE! What a huge chance for Inter to get back into this one. Cassano's attempted ball through takes a deflection, which actually helps it into the path of Alvarez. The winger is clear through on goal, in acres of space, but he drags his shot woefully wide with only Friedel to beat. He really should have scored there, and how big could an away goal be in this tie?

43 minAlvarez lets fly from further out this time, but his strike is blocked by Vertonghen.

44 minConsidering the way that this match has gone, that was a huge chance for Alvarez. A goal could have changed the whole complexion of the match and given Inter the means to push on.

45 minThere will be one minute of added time at White Hart Lane.

45+1 minHALF TIME: Spurs 2-0 Inter Milan

8.53pmAs expected, that was an entertaining first 45 minutes. Spurs dominated the vast majority of it and thoroughly deserve their lead. However, Alvarez had a glorious chance to pull an away goal back for his side towards the end of that half, and that could've had a huge impact on the tie.

8.55pmSpurs have looked very impressive so far. The first half an hour was a joy to behold as they completely outplayed Inter. Every time they went forward they looked capable of scoring and I'm surprised they only have two goals to their name to be honest. Bale and Sigurdsson got the goals, but the whole Spurs side have played well.

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8.57pmInter, meanwhile, have been disappointing to say the least. Apart from Alvarez's chance late on, they created very little in attack throughout the first half. They seemed to retreat into their shell a bit after the second goal, but it may be too early for damage limitation mode.

8.59pmBoth managers have an interesting decision to make at the break now. Villas-Boas must choose whether to turn the screw and go for a third goal, which could kill the tie off in the first leg. Bale's yellow card in the first half means that he will miss the second leg, remember, so any help they can get for that match in Italy will help them. An away goal for inter would change things completely, however, so Villas-Boas will be keen to get the balance right.

9.01pmStramacchioni, meanwhile, will need to find a way to improve going forward. At 2-0, the tie is still alive, but an away goal would put his side in a much stronger position. At the same time, there aren't many better counter-attacking teams in world football than Tottenham at the moment, and another goal conceded could be tie over. It's a very delicate situation for the visitors.

9.03pmUnsurprisingly, Spurs dominated possession in that half. They had 59% of the ball, as well as 10 shots, nine of which were on target. By comparison, Inter only managed 41% possession and four shots, none of which worked Friedel.

9.05pmI would expect Rodrigo Palacio to make an appearance at some point in this second half, perhaps sooner rather than later. Zero shots on target in the first half is unacceptable for a side of Inter's quality.

9.06pmINTER MILAN SUB: Sure enough, Palacio will be coming on at the break. He scored twice at the weekend to help Inter come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Juan Jesus makes way for Palacio.

45 minInter Milan get us back underway at the Lane!

45 minSpurs almost fall straight back into their groove. Sigurdsson trades passes with Bale and then does the same with Defoe, whose return pass is just too heavy for the Spurs midfielder.

47 minAnother nearly moment for Sigurdsson. Lennon races down the right and pulls the ball back to the Spurs midfielder, who tries to control it before shooting, but his touch is too heavy and the chance passes.

48 minCHANCE! Oh that's a really good chance for Vertonghen! Bale whips a peach of a ball in towards the back post from a free kick. Pereira's marking of the Tottenham defender leaves a lot to be desired, but Vertonghen seems to lose track of the ball as it is coming in and completely misses it when he had a fairly simple tap in had he connected.

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50 minInter come forwards and Pereira finds a hint of space behind the defence. Walker scrambles back quickly, but the Inter winger still manages to get a shot away. He drags it wide of the post, but that is better from the visitors.

52 minGOAL! Spurs 3-0 Inter Milan (Jan Vertonghen)

52 minTie over? Bale whips a corner straight into the danger zone and Vertonghen has a free header, which he puts past a helpless Handanovic. Criminal defending from Inter, Chivu was very slow to react to the cross and no-one got near Vertonghen. It's all too easy for the hosts.

54 minINTER MILAN SUB: Off goes young Kovacic for Fredy Guarin. Can the Colombian do anything to change the momentum of this tie?

56 minThere is a great atmosphere inside White Hart Lane at the moment. Their fans are in jubilant mood, and why shouldn't they be? They may well have secured their quarter-final place by the halfway stage of this tie, knocking out one of the favourites in the process.

58 minThere is also a terrific desire in the Tottenham team tonight. Shortly after their third goal four of their players were all chasing one Inter player down, forcing him into the mistake.

60 minCLOSE! Bale gets hold of the ball and immediately makes a beeline for the opposition goal. The defenders can't get near him and he tries to steer an effort in at the near post. He beats the keeper, but it falls the wrong side of the post and hits the side netting. Thrilling stuff from the Welsh winger.

62 minSAVE! Parker slides Defoe in down the channel and the England striker hesitates before taking another touch and powering a low effort at goal. Handanovic gets down quickly to get a hand to it, but he has no idea where the ball has gone. It doesn't go where he expects, but luckily for Inter goes the right side of the post as far as they are concerned.

64 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Villas-Boas makes his first change of the match as Jake Livermore replaces Dembele.

65 minSpurs have a great chance to break as Lennon gives the ball to Defoe after winning a tackle. Defoe advances up the field and he is supported by the lightning-quick trio of Lennon, Bale and Walker, who seem to be racing each other to get there quickest! In the end, Defoe passes to none of them and loses the ball. A big waste of a chance but at least we got to see that race! I'd say Bale probably won.

67 minINTER MILAN SUB: Alvarez is replaced by Jonathan for Inter Milan. They need a goal in these final 20 minutes or so.

69 minCHANCE! Parker brings the ball forward before slipping a disguised pass into Lennon. The winger pokes the ball through the legs of Chivu, racing round the defender to collect it at the other side. Handanovic comes off his line quickly to deny the eventual shot, but it was very good play from Lennon.

70 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Holtby comes on for Spurs in place of Sigurdsson, who I have been very impressed with tonight.


72 minYELLOW CARD! Parker sells Gallas short with a pass, and the Spirs defender lunges to try and win the ball back. Guarin just nips in to steal the ball before going down in a heap, but the ref shows the Inter man a yellow for a foul - and again he has got it spot on.

73 minCHANCE! Inter have another gilt-edge chance to get an away goal. A clever free kick catches Spurs napping and Palacio finds himself clean through on goal. Friedel is out quickly and saves the low effort with his feet. Good goalkeeping, especially considering he has had nothing else to do today, but Palacio really should have scored.

75 minWith Liverpool awaiting Spurs on Sunday, Villas-Boas may be thinking of resting his key players. However, he has apparently asked Bale and Lennon whether they want to stay on, and both have said yes, so they will! Interesting style of management!

76 minYELLOW CARD! Lennon just nips in to steal the ball off the toe of Pereira, who brings the winger down and gets a yellow card for his troubles.

78 minTottenham have been quicker, stronger and hungrier than Inter in every area of the pitch today. They have simply outplayed their more illustrious opponents.

79 minSHOT! Even Gallas is getting involved in the action! The defender works his way forward, trading passes with a couple of teammates before finally giving it to Holtby. Gallas is screaming for the return pass, but Holtby goes for goal himself, and it's quite easy for Handanovic.

81 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Lennon won't last the full 90 minutes after all. He is replaced by Kyle Naughton after another good performance from the winger.

83 minThis has been the first real lull in this match. Tottenham know that they don't have to play at the same sort of pace that they have been in these closing stages. The most important thing for them now is a clean sheet.

85 minCassano has a chance to threaten that clean sheet as he finds himself in a good crossing position. He tries to curl it in and behind the Spurs defence to Guarin at the back post, but just doesn't get enough whip on it as it goes out for a goal kick.

86 minSpurs have passed the ball about brilliantly today. Another impressive spell of possession gives Walker the chance to cross from the right, but Handanovic intercepts the pass.

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88 minGuarin thinks for one second that he is clean through on goal, but the linesman has his flag up.

89 minInter really should be pushing more for a goal, in my opinion. If they could nick one here, they would only need a 2-0 win at the San Siro, which becomes a lot more realistic.

90 minWe will have three added minutes at White Hart Lane.

90+1 minBale tries to race past players in the box, but his touch is too heavy and he throws himself to the ground. The ref just has a small word with Bale as, by the book, he is well within his rights to give the winger a second yellow for diving there.

90+3 minFULL TIME: Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Inter Milan

9.55pmSo ends a superb night of European football for Tottenham Hotspur. A 3-0 lead going into the second leg is as good as they could have hoped for, and Bale, Sigurdsson and Vertonghen have put Villas-Boas's men on the verge of the Europa League quarter-finals.

9.57pmIt was far from a good night for Inter, however. They find themselves with a huge challenge to qualify for the next round when they take on Spurs in the second leg next week. They will need to match the 3-0 scoreline and, if they concede, will have to score at least five.

9.59pmFor Villas-Boas, the Spurs machine rolls on. They stand a very good chance of winning this competition now and, if they continue to perform as well as they have been doing in the league, they could be on course for their best season in decades.

10pmRight, that's it from me tonight. Thank you for joining Sports Mole for a thoroughly entertaining night of Europa League football, and congratulations to Spurs for their impressive victory. I will leave you with Jack Prescott's match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction and analysis, the latter of which will be on site within half an hour. Good night!

Inter boss Andrea Stramaccioni gives the thumbs up on the touchline during the match against Siena on February 3, 2013
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