TOTTENHAM manager Harry Redknapp hailed Gareth Bale as the best left-sided player in the world after his hat-trick brought 10-man Spurs to within a whisker of a sensational draw.
A masterful first half of football from Inter left Tottenham four goals and one man down after goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was sent off, but Bale spared Spurs’ blushes with a stunning second half performance.
Redknapp said: “We were bang in trouble at 4-0 down. Any kind of score could have come. We could have been sitting on the end of a seven, eight, nine-goal defeat. It was a fantastic hat-trick from Gareth Bale, an amazing performance again from him. He’s as good a left-sided player as there is anywhere around, possibly there wouldn’t be too many in the world better than him at the moment.”
Spurs started the match in the worst style imaginable, conceding after one minute from Javier Zanetti’s controlled finish. Gomes then saw red for bringing down Jonathan Biabiany, but substitute goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini could not stop Samuel Eto’o’s expertly placed penalty.
Dejan Stankovic then scored from outside the area and Eto’o completed Inter’s first-half rout with a finish that Cudicini might well have saved.
Redknapp’s half-time team talk inspired his charges, who looked a changed team in the second period, epitomised by Bale’s performance. The Welshman’s first will rank among the best of his career. Picking up the ball in his own half, the winger beat two players and ran 67 yards before coolly beating Julio Cesar.
The score remained 4-1 until a frantic final two minutes in which Bale notched his second, a carbon-copy finish after leaving Zanetti for dead, and completed the first hat-trick of his career after a deft pass from Aaron Lennon found him unmarked on the left of the area.