Crouch (left) and Bale celebrate Spurs' second goal
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer, at White Hart Lane
Gareth Bale produced a master class to torture Champions League holders Inter Milan as Tottenham took a giant stride towards the last 16 on a memorable night at White Hart Lane.
Bale scored a hat-trick in a losing cause when Spurs met Inter in the San Siro - but on a tumultuous occasion that rekindled golden memories of the famous "Glory Glory" nights in north London he was arguably even better as Spurs made it a miserable return to England for former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.
Rafael van der Vaart continued his streak of scoring on each White Hart Lane appearance since signing for Spurs when he gave them an early lead - but Bale was the man who lit up White Hart Lane and reduced Inter's defence, in particular the celebrated Brazilian Maicon, to rubble.
Bale ran Inter ragged time and again with a performance laced with unstoppable power, pace and a devastating end product that left Inter without any answers.
He had already set up a chance which Peter Crouch somehow missed before repeating the trick on the hour to allow the striker to make amends and double Spurs' lead.
And even though Samuel Eto'o gave Spurs some anxious moments when he pulled a goal back after 81 minutes, it was only right that the peerless Bale had the last word in a game he made his own with a performance that will illuminate the memory for years to come.
As Inter pressed for an undeserved equaliser, he broke away and once again left a succession of Inter defenders trailing in his wake to provide the third and decisive Spurs goal for substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko.
This was the night Spurs really arrived in the Champions League - and when Bale confirmed himself as a world-class player on the highest stage in club football.
Tottenham now lead Group A after four matches and a win over Werder Bremen, couple with anything other than an Inter defeat, would ensure Spurs reached the last 16.
White Hart Lane rose in unison to acclaim Harry Redknapp's team at the final whistle, but the special salute was deserved for Bale as his name rang around the ground amid wild celebrations.
Van der Vaart's recovery from the hamstring tweak that forced him off at Manchester United was pivotal to Spurs' plans - and so it proved in an enthralling first 45 minutes.
After some high quality early exchanges, in which Eto'o flashed a 20-yard effort inches wide, it was Van der Vaart who gave Spurs the lead after 18 minutes.
Luka Modric was the creator with clever sleight of foot on the edge of the area before playing in Van der Vaart, who emphatically beat Inter keeper Luca Castellazzi with a low drive.
Spurs outplayed Inter Milan - Harry Redknapp
Inter were suddenly on the back foot, and Bale was in majestic form on the left flank as he tore Maicon to shreds time after time. It was a threat that should have given Spurs a second goal as they tried to press home their advantage.
Bale drove into the heart of Inter again before delivering an inviting cross to Crouch at the far post, but with a goal looking inevitable he thrashed a desperate finish across the face of goal, to the obvious despair of Spurs boss Redknapp.
Inter, however, carried a real air of menace despite being behind and Spurs keeper Carlo Cudicini was called into action on the stroke of half-time with a flying save to turn Wesley Sneijder's free-kick away from the top corner.
White Hart Lane delivered a deserved standing ovation for both teams at the interval, but there was to be disappointment for Spurs as Van der Vaart failed to emerge for the second half after suffering a recurrence of his hamstring problem.
Jermaine Jenas was his replacement, but this did not disrupt Spurs' rhythm as they continued to pile forward and after Bale sent an overhead kick inches wide, Castellazzi had to stretch to turn over Crouch's header from an Alan Hutton cross.
Gareth Bale 'delighted' with influential performance
Bale had produced a performance of the very highest calibre and Inter once again had to bow to his burgeoning talent when he set up the second goal Spurs deserved just after the hour.
He simply ran the right side of Inter's rearguard into the ground before playing in Crouch, who made no mistake this time as he slid in six yards out.
Inevitably, Bale was the toast of White Hart Lane and taunts of "Taxi For Maicon" rang out as the defender who played such a big part in Inter's Champions League triumph was destroyed by the rampant Welshman.
However, Eto'o was a constant threat, and he suddenly injected real tension with a fine goal, struck past Cudicini from an angle after he dummied Hutton.
Bale was in no mood to let the win slip away though, and in a moment that characterised his display, he ran through Inter again with a blistering burst that allowed Pavlyuchenko to complete the formalities.
90:00+2:01 Booking Luka Modric booked for unsporting behaviour.
90:00+1:18 Short corner taken by Luka Modric from the left by-line.
89:54 Shot by Diego Milito from 25 yards.
88:38 Gareth Bale provided the assist for the goal.
88:38 GOAL - Roman Pavlyuchenko:Tottenham 3 - 1 Inter Milan Roman Pavlyuchenko finds the net with a goal from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Tottenham 3-1 Inter
88:35 Centre by Gareth Bale,
86:53 Unfair challenge on Sisenando Maicon by Benoit Assou-Ekotto results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Sisenando Maicon.
86:24 Roman Pavlyuchenko is ruled offside. Direct free kick taken by Javier Zanetti.
85:08 Booking Ferreira Lucio is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
83:41 Substitution Aaron Lennon goes off and Wilson Palacios comes on.
83:41 The assistant referee signals for offside against Diego Milito.
79:06 Assist on the goal came from Wesley Sneijder.
79:06 GOAL - Samuel Eto'o:Tottenham 2 - 1 Inter Milan Samuel Eto'o fires in a goal from just inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Tottenham 2-1 Inter Milan.
78:39 The ball is swung over by Aaron Lennon, clearance by Sisenando Maicon.
75:20 Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Roman Pavlyuchenko coming on for Peter Crouch.
74:01 Diego Milito concedes a free kick for a foul on Luka Modric. Carlo Cudicini restarts play with the free kick.
71:59 Booking Booking for Jermaine Jenas for unsporting behaviour.
71:07 Effort from deep inside the area by Diego Milito misses to the right of the goal.
70:22 Free kick taken by Javier Zanetti.
70:22 Substitution Diego Milito on for Goran Pandev.
70:22 Benoit Assou-Ekotto challenges Javier Zanetti unfairly and gives away a free kick.
70:02 Samuel Eto'o takes a shot from 20 yards. Carlo Cudicini makes a comfortable save.
64:12 Free kick awarded for a foul by Gareth Bale on Goran Pandev. Sisenando Maicon takes the free kick.
63:37 Substitution Jonathan Biabiany leaves the field to be replaced by Phillippe Coutinho.
62:44 Effort on goal by Jonathan Biabiany from 12 yards. Save made by Carlo Cudicini.
62:04 The ball is swung over by Aaron Lennon, Ferreira Lucio manages to make a clearance.
60:17 Gareth Bale provided the assist for the goal.
60:17 GOAL - Peter Crouch:Tottenham 2 - 0 Inter Milan Peter Crouch fires in a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Tottenham 2-0 Inter Milan.
60:13 The ball is crossed by Gareth Bale,
57:29 The referee gives a free kick against Aaron Lennon for handball. Cristian Chivu takes the free kick.
56:44 Effort from deep inside the area by William Gallas misses to the right of the goal.
55:54 Luka Modric fouled by Javier Zanetti, the ref awards a free kick. Gareth Bale delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed
from left wing, Ferreira Lucio manages to make a clearance.
54:59 Inswinging corner taken by Gareth Bale from the left by-line.
54:35 Alan Hutton crosses the ball, Chance falls to Peter Crouch who heads at goal, save by Luca Castellazzi.
52:31 Substitution Obiora Nwankwo joins the action as a substitute, replacing Sulley Muntari.
52:08 Gareth Bale has shot on goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
50:22 The free kick is delivered right-footed by Tom Huddlestone from right wing, save by Luca Castellazzi.
50:22 Booking Cristian Chivu goes into the book.
50:18 Foul by Cristian Chivu on Aaron Lennon, free kick awarded.
48:47 Sisenando Maicon has an effort at goal from outside the area which goes wide right of the goal.
48:11 Wesley Sneijder takes a outswinging corner to the near post, clearance made by Tom Huddlestone.
45:01 The second half begins.
45:01 Substitution Jermaine Jenas on for Rafael Van der Vaart.
45:00+1:23 It is the end of the first-half.
45:00+0:49 Corner taken by Wesley Sneijder played to the near post.
45:00+0:30 Tom Huddlestone challenges Sulley Muntari unfairly and gives away a free kick. Sulley Muntari restarts play with the free
42:34 Corner from the right by-line taken by Wesley Sneijder, clearance made by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
41:26 Free kick awarded for a foul by Luka Modric on Samuel Eto'o. Wesley Sneijder shoots direct from the free kick, Carlo Cudicini
makes a save.
40:21 Tom Huddlestone produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
38:53 Wesley Sneijder delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, save made by Carlo Cudicini.
38:53 Booking The referee books Alan Hutton for unsporting behaviour.
38:46 Free kick awarded for a foul by Alan Hutton on Samuel Eto'o.
36:53 Shot by Wesley Sneijder from 20 yards. Save by Carlo Cudicini.
36:30 Corner taken left-footed by Rafael Van der Vaart from the right by-line, save made by Luca Castellazzi.
35:12 Rafael Van der Vaart shoots direct from the free kick.
35:12 Booking Walter Samuel is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
35:02 Aaron Lennon fouled by Walter Samuel, the ref awards a free kick.
34:06 Effort on goal by Sulley Muntari from outside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
32:47 Shot by Gareth Bale. Blocked by Ferreira Lucio.
30:23 Gareth Bale has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
29:26 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Wesley Sneijder from the right by-line, Gareth Bale makes a clearance.
29:05 Effort on goal by Ferreira Lucio from 20 yards. Carlo Cudicini makes a save.
27:28 Shot from outside the penalty box by Javier Zanetti goes wide right of the goal.
26:01 Free kick awarded for a foul by Sulley Muntari on Rafael Van der Vaart. Younes Kaboul takes the direct free kick.
24:30 Centre by Gareth Bale, Shot by Peter Crouch from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.
17:33 The assist for the goal came from Luka Modric.
17:33 GOAL - Rafael Van der Vaart:Tottenham 1 - 0 Inter Milan Rafael Van der Vaart finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Tottenham
1-0 Inter Milan.
16:56 Effort on goal by Wesley Sneijder from 20 yards. Save made by Carlo Cudicini.
16:35 Centre by Aaron Lennon, clearance by Walter Samuel.
13:47 Rafael Van der Vaart takes the outswinging corner, Sisenando Maicon makes a clearance.
12:09 William Gallas concedes a free kick for a foul on Wesley Sneijder. Free kick taken by Sulley Muntari.
11:37 The ball is swung over by Gareth Bale, save made by Luca Castellazzi.
8:58 Goran Pandev crosses the ball, clearance made by Younes Kaboul.
8:22 Shot by Luka Modric. Save by Luca Castellazzi.
6:26 Shot from just outside the area by Samuel Eto'o misses to the right of the target.
5:04 Short corner taken by Aaron Lennon, Rafael Van der Vaart sends in a cross, Ferreira Lucio manages to make a clearance.
4:13 The assistant referee flags for offside against Rafael Van der Vaart. Direct free kick taken by Ferreira Lucio.
3:10 Wesley Sneijder has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
1:59 Corner taken left-footed by Gareth Bale, Ferreira Lucio manages to make a clearance.
1:46 A cross is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, clearance made by Sulley Muntari.
0:00 The match has kicked off.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.
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