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Bale takes a tumble; Inter take a thrashing

Former Arsenal right-back Lee Dixon, speaking on the ITV Europa League programme, said how senior players back in the day warned Robert Pires against diving.

Last night, against Inter Milan, Bale knocked the ball past Juan Jesus and sprinted down the left like a roadrunner. His trailing leg appeared to have caught the Brazilian defender and he went down inside the box.

Tottenham Hotspur's Welsh footballer Gareth Bale (R) is given the yellow card for diving by the referee during a UEFA Europa League Round of 16 football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan at White Hart Lane in east London, on March 7, 2013.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh footballer Gareth Bale (R) is given the yellow card for diving by the referee during a UEFA Europa League Round of 16 football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan at White Hart Lane in east London, on March 7, 2013.

It all happened so quickly that it seemed like it was a penalty, at least from one camera angle. Tottenham fans were annoyed when the referee asked Bale to get up, and slowly raised his hand showing a yellow card. Bale was flummoxed and pleaded his innocence, but the referee pointed to a tag on his left sleeve that read Respect. It was his sixth booking for simulation since 31 December 2011.

He opened the scoring for Tottenham in the sixth minute via a glorious header, and 10 minutes later he was in the referee’s book. Bale will now miss the second leg and it would have proven costly for Tottenham had it not been for their three goal cushion. It was completely pointless and unnecessary, especially when he is one booking away from suspension.

Maybe he didn’t even know that he was close to missing the second leg at the San Siro. Even Daily Telegraph writer Henry Winter had to check with Tottenham and UEFA since the booking wasn’t shown on the team graphic before the game. Whatever the case is, Bale just cannot stop diving. It is one of those flaws that every genius is packaged with, and diving happens to be his. Either Villas-Boas should set him straight, or someone like Michael Dawson put an arm around his shoulder and have a little chat with him.

Anyway, diving aside, Inter Milan is sure to make headlines for their lazy display against Tottenham.

The centre-backs looked like they had their feet stuck in quicksand, the midfield wouldn’t step out of its own half and the attack got no service from their teammates.

In the build-up to this game, it was billed as the clash between two young and upcoming managers. After the first half, it was clear that Andres Villas-Boas won the first round over Andrea Stramaccioni.

It is hard to comprehend what game plan Stramaccioni arrived with at White Hart Lane. If one closely examines the highlights reel, Inter had just two clear chances to score and they fluffed both. Ricardo Alvarez saw his shot go wide before the end of first half when a through-ball from Cassano took a deflection and sent Alvarez 1v1 against Brad Friedel. In the second half, a quick free kick taken by Esteban Cambiasso sent Cassano through on goal, but he shot straight at Friedel.

On a night like this, when so much was at stake, it didn’t make sense playing an 18-year-old midfielder Mateo Kovacic in attack alongside Cassano, especially when Inter Milan’s top scorer Ricardo Palacio was on the bench. Shifting away from their preferred 3-5-2 formation to a more dangerous 3-4-3 clearly backfired for Inter.

Also, Inter’s marking was so poor that it cost them the tie. Cambiasso lost sight of Bale when he scored Tottenham’s first goal and was indirectly responsible for their second too. He saw Aaron Lennon moving behind him, and instead of checking his run, he tried to challenge an advancing Mousa Dembele along with Juan Jesus. That created space on the right and Lennon took a good position to whack the ball into the box to create a goal for Gylfi Sigurdsson.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 07:  Gylfi Sigurdsson of Tottenham Hotspur scores his side's second goal past Samir Handanovic of FC Internazionale Milano during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 First Leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and FC Internazionale Milano at White Hart Lane

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 07: Gylfi Sigurdsson of Tottenham Hotspur scores his side’s second goal past Samir Handanovic of FC Internazionale Milano during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 First Leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and FC Internazionale Milano at White Hart Lane

Inter Milan weren’t even defending their posts during corners. Defoe was left free to stand in front of the goalkeeper and block him from coming out to punch the ball. Jan Vertonghen was left unmarked in the box, which allowed him to score Tottenham’s third. Their marking was so sloppy that any Tottenham player could have gotten away with tapping a defender on his shoulder from behind and attacking the ball when he looked back.

Three years ago, Inter were 4-0 up against Tottenham at half-time  in the Champions League. The Inter we saw last night was a shadow of a once-glorious side. It is hard to believe that they are just one point off the third place, and will be playing in the Champions League again next season if they finish third in Serie A.

FINAL SCORE: TOTTENHAM 3-0 INTER

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