Europa League - Bale sets Spurs on road to thumping win over Inter

Europa League last 16, first leg; White Hart Lane - Tottenham 3 (Bale 6, Sigurdsson 18, Vertonghen 53) Inter Milan 0

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Europa League - Bale sets Spurs on road to thumping win over Inter
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Tottenham celebrate Gareth Bale's early opener against Inter Milan (Reuters)

Gareth Bale scored an 11th goal in nine games for club and country as Tottenham took a massive step towards the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-0 dismantling of Inter Milan in their last-16, first leg tie at White Hart Lane.

Andre Villas-Boas's side justified their billing as the new favourites for the tournament with the sort of night they could only have dreamed about as goals from rampant Welsh international Bale (6), Gylfi Sigurdsson (18) and Jan Vertonghen (53) completed a win that could easily have been more.

The return match already looks like a formality with Tottenham visiting the San Siro for the second leg next Thursday. Inter would need to record a 4-0 win to oust Spurs, but the Premier League team have only lost one of their past 78 European games after scoring more than two goals.

That defeat came against Inter in 2010 when their 10 men lost 4-3 in the San Siro despite a Bale hat-trick. That was back when Inter were fresh from winning the Champions League. Inter cut a bedraggled lot in this company these days with the energy and superior technical movement of Spurs exposing the Italian side time after time.

Spurs will have do without Bale, who serves a one-match suspension after rightly collecting a booking for diving, his third caution of the tournament.

Judging by the slipshod nature of the Inter defence, Bale will hardly be missed in Italy.

Scott Parker must have impressed watching England manager Roy Hodgson with his performance. He made 77 passes and six tackles, more than any other man on the pitch, as Tottenham enjoyed complete dominance.

Emmanuel Adebayor was missing for Spurs after suffering a knee injury during Sunday's North London derby win over Arsenal. Mousa Dembele, like Adebayor, was fit to start with Hugo Lloris making way for Brad Friedel in goal.

Antonio Cassano started for Inter having been recalled after being punished for a row with manager Andrea Stramaccioni by being dropped for the weekend win over Catania.

He started the match, but Inter were without key names such as Walter Samuel, Diego Milito and Andrea Ranocchia due to injury.

They were behind early on when Bale rose to head into the corner of the net from Sigurdsson's cross.

Inter were rocking as another brilliant run and pass from Bale saw him pick out Jermain Defoe, whose powerful shot was blocked by Samir Handanovic in the visiting goal.

Bale then nodded wide of goal from another Sigurdsson cross with the Inter central defence all over the place, but Sigurdsson did not make any mistake when he tucked the ball into the gaping net after Handanovic could only parry a Defoe effort.

Ricky Alvarez blew a glorious chance to score for Inter before half-time when he bounded onto a Cassano pass. He only needed to beat Friedel, but drove the ball wide of goal.

It was a rare moment of respite as Spurs picked up where they left after half-time with Bale throwing a free-kick deep to the back post.

Alvaro Pereira let Vertonghen give him the slip, but the home defender knocked it wide from five yards out.

The Belgian player was not so profligate moments later when he rose above the besieged Christian Chivu to head the third goal into the net and complete a rousing win.

Bale, Defoe and Lennon could have added to the winning margin while Friedel was needed to halt a shot from Rodrigo Palacio after he had galloped onto Esteban Cambiasso's quickly-taken free-kick, but the Italians were well beaten and look to be finished in Europe this season.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Scott Parker (Tottenham) - A driving performance at the heart of the midfield. So many men could have landed the gong, but Parker gets the nod just to make a change from awarding it to Bale.

PLAYER RATINGS

TOTTENHAM: Friedel 7, Walker 8, Vertonghen 7, Gallas 7, Assou-Ekotto 7, Dembele 7, Parker 8, Lennon 7, Sigurdsson 8, Bale 8, Defoe 7; Subs: Naughton 6, Livermore 6, Holtby 6.

INTER MILAN: Handanovic 7, Zanetti 5, Ranocchia 5, Chivu 4, Juan Jesus 4, Gargano 3, Cambiasso 4, Alvarez 3, Kovacic 3, Pereira 4, Cassano 6; Subs: , Jonathan 5, Guarin 5, Palacio 5.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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