Tottenham Hotspur continued their run as one of the hottest teams in Europe with a crushing 3-0 defeat over visiting Inter Milan at White Hart Lane in the Europa League Round of 16 on Thursday. The win gives Spurs a commanding lead heading into the second leg at the San Siro in Milan next Thursday.
Gareth Bale opened the scoring for Spurs in the sixth minute, while Gylfi Siggurdsson doubled the lead in the 18th minute. Jan Vertonghen finished off the scoring eight minutes into the second half.
Former New England Revolution star and U.S. International Clint Dempsey missed his third straight match with a calf injury and fellow striker Emmanuel Adebayor was also out with a knee injury, but Jermain Defoe returned from an ankle injury of his own to make his first start since February 3.
The win leaves Tottenham unbeaten – outside of the FA Cup – in 2013. Spurs have now won three straight and, excluding the FA Cup, are unbeaten in their last 16 matches. The run has seen Spurs (16-6-6, 54 points) move to third place in the Premier League table, as well as continue their success in the Europa League.
Spurs opened the match positively and Bale deservedly put them ahead in just the sixth minute. The Wales International rose about his defender to reach a cross from Sigurdsson and send a powerful header into the corner of the net. For Bale, it was his 10th goal in his last eight games for Spurs.
Sigurdsson would go from provider to finisher 12 minutes later. After Aaron Lennon found Defoe in the box, the English international blasted a shot on frame. Defoe’s shot was too close to Samir Handanovic, who made the save, but couldn’t hold it. The rebound bounced favorably for Spurs and Sigurdsson was there to tap it in.
Tottenham continued to stay on the front foot for much of the half, and survived a few late scares to go into halftime at 2-0.
The home side would put the game out of reach in the 53rd minute after earning a corner kick. Bale took the set piece, curling it into the box where Jan Vertonghen lost his defender and powered a header in to make it 3-0.
Spurs had chances to add to their lead, but Lennon and Defoe were both denied by Handanovic on good chances.
Former U.S. International Brad Friedel then came up big to preserve the shutout in the 75th minute. The 41-year-old ‘keeper was quick to deny substitute Rodrigo Palacio after Esteban Cambiasso played him behind the defense with a quick free kick. It was one of just two saves Friedel had to make to secure the shutout as Spurs would go on to win 3-0.
It wasn’t all good news for Spurs, however, as Bale picked up a yellow card for simulation in a questionable decision. That card rules him out for the away leg due to yellow card accumulation, so Spurs will be hoping Dempsey recovers in time to slot into Bale’s place in the line-up.
Spurs return to Premier League action on Sunday as they hope to maintain their hold on third with a trip to face a similarly in-form Liverpool. That match is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET and can be seen live on Fox Soccer Channel.