1. Gareth Bale can tear a European Cup winning defence to pieces – The outstanding performer of the night and across both ties, it is difficult to look past the young Welshman. To have completely dominated Maicon, a right back widely regarded as the best in the world – albeit predominantly for his attacking prowess as opposes to his defensive capabilities – so completely demonstrated a truly world class performance from a player announcing himself on the world stage. He continued from where he left of in the San Siro, where this victory really began with such a spirited comeback driven by Bale. Confident in the knowledge that he had the pace to beat the slow and ageing Inter defence. The highlight coming in the 89th minute when he received the ball deep in his own half. He showed tremendous turn of pace with a kick and chase past Nwankwo, giving him a taste of what Maicon had experienced all night. Then to have the ability and composure to roll the ball into the path of the oncoming Pavlyuchenko was from the top draw. A run that demonstrated his stamina, confidence and commitment as well as skill in the dying moments of the game.
2. Younes Kaboul is developing into an assured centre back – At the other end of the pitch there was no repeat of the disastrous start made in the corresponding fixture two weeks ago. Far from being torn apart by a free-flowing Inter attack, the visitors were reduced to few clear cut chances. The defence as a whole put in a greatly improved performance with notable support given by Huddlestone and Modric, who again was involved in the early stages of the majority of Tottenham attacks. But the standout player for me across the backline was Kaboul who played like the mature centre back alongside his vastly more experienced partner William Gallas. It was a performance that signalled the vast improvement made by a player, who has come a long way since he was shipped out the back door of Spurs to Portsmouth in the summer of 2008. I was initially sceptical of Kaboul’s ability as a football player, seeing a powerful quick athlete, who seemed to lack a football brain during his first spell at Tottenham. However during his spell at Portsmouth and second spell with Spurs he has shown himself as a decent young defender, capable of winning the ball and bringing it out of defence to start attacks. This enable players like Modric and Huddlestone more freedom to move forward whilst Spurs are in possession at the back.
3. It is possible to play successfully without an out and out midfield enforcer – The central midfield of Tottenham consisting of Modric, Huddlestone and VDV, consisted of three technically gifted football players who are all confident and capable of passing the ball across the field to switch the point of attack along with excellent touch. However none of these players are renowned for their tackling ability or protecting the back four, which is seen as a necessary player by many in the modern game. Both Modric and Huddlestone worked hard to track back and cover the field, and without a player like Palacios were able with the defence to prevent an extremely talented Inter attack from penetrating the Spurs backline.
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4. Spurs can raise their game for big European ties – It seems almost a simple observation but after convincingly beating the European Champions, there is obviously sufficient talent there to mix with the cream of the Premiership and Europe. However domestically the consistency is not there. Lacklustre defeats against Wigan and West Ham, both relegation candidates, show signs of a team that are inconsistent and unable to produce to this standard with sufficient regularity. The defeat to Manchester United at the weekend continued a bleak run of 17 years without a win at the so called “big 4”. This is a problem that needs to be addressed as it has formed a tremendous mental challenge to the players going to places where they have such atrocious records makes the game that much harder and defeat at Old Trafford was almost inevitable.
5. Benitez had no answers to Bale’s attacking presence – Finally a note on the opposition. Despite being given a demonstration of what Bale can do to Maicon when given the opportunity in the second half at the San Siro. Benitez did not address this sufficiently either before kick or at any point during the game. Two weeks ago Everton were able to sufficiently nullify the threat from Bale through Phil Neville and Johnny Heitinga. This was done by reducing the space Bale had and crowding him out of the game. When Lucio was being pulled over from centre back he was unable to stop Bale as he was already rampaging at full pace – a pace much quicker than Lucio could keep up with. The key to Everton’s success was preventing Bale getting to full speed coupled with forcing him onto his weaker foot. Time and again against Inter Bale was allowed all too easily to go on the outside on his favoured left foot. Surely putting an experienced player such as Zanetti on Bale to assist Maicon and showing him on to his right foot would have stalled Bale’s main threat. But Benitez had nothing to offer to deter Bale’s threat.