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Brilliant Bale leads brave fightback

Gareth Bale inspired a brave fightback from 4-0 down against holders Inter Milan at the San Siro in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale inspired a brave fightback from 4-0 down against holders Inter Milan at the San Siro in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The brilliant Welshman's second half hat-trick gave the final scoreline of this group match more than a touch of respectability after we had looked dead and buried in 15 minutes.

The first half had seen the rampant Italians teach us a harsh lesson on just how unforgiving this competition can be, racing into a three goal lead.

And to make matters worse, we went down to 10 men after Heurelho Gomes was sent off conceding a penalty that led to the second goal.

It was 4-0 by half-time with little sign of Inter abating - but a brave second half performance led by Bale at least sent our thousands of travelling fans home singing.

Harry Redknapp made four changes from the side that beat Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday.

Sebastien Bassong came into the centre of defence for injured captain Ledley King, with Tom Huddlestone given the skipper's armband.

Aaron Lennon earned a start on the right wing after an impressive second half performance at Craven Cottage, with Luka Modric moving in-field to assume the role just behind the striker usually occupied by the suspended Rafael van der Vaart.

Jermaine Jenas came in for Sandro, who was ineligible, while Peter Crouch replaced Roman Pavlyuchenko up-front.

But the manager's best laid plans for a typically gung-ho, attacking display went out of the window almost from the first whistle as we found our backs quickly to the wall.

In only the second minute, a dazzling passing move that split our defence in two was started and finished by skipper Javier Zanetti to put the hosts in front.

Things quickly went from bad to worse when Wesley Sneijder's vision sent Jonathan Biabiany in behind Benoit Assou-Ekotto and through on goal. He chipped over the on-rushing Gomes who could only go clattering into the winger, conceding a penalty and getting himself sent off in the process.

After much deliberation, it was decided that Modric would be the man to make way for replacement goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, whose first job was to pick Samuel Eto'o's well-struck penalty out of his net.

Not even 15 minutes gone and the 10 men found themselves 3-0 down when Eto'o laid the ball off to Dejan Stankovic to drill home low into Cudicini's bottom corner from the edge of the box.

There was no mercy shown by Rafa Benitez's side with Cudicini forced to palm away an acrobatic volley from Stankovic 10 minutes later, while Crouch was guilty of wasting our only chance of the half, putting a free header over at the back post just before the half hour mark after Lennon's cross.

Ten minutes from the break we found ourselves 4-0 down and without any real hope when the impressive Coutinho slid in Eto'o to score his second of the night under the body of our hapless reserve goalkeeper.

He was forced into further saves from the free-scoring Cameroon striker and a double-stop from Maicon before the half-time whistle finally sounded.

But we came out for the second half in a far more positive frame of mind and a goal of some brilliance gave everyone a lift less than 10 minutes in.

Bale picked up a loose ball inside his own half and made a trademark gallop into Inter's box, leaving a trail of blue and black shirts in his wake, before drilling low and hard into the far corner.

There were more frequent forays into the opponents final third than in the first 45 minutes, but the hosts remained a constant threat.

Substitute Davide Santon cut in from the left and hit a right foot shot that Cudicini had to tip round his near post just two minutes later.

Coutinho went close just after the hour mark, rolling a shot just past Cudicini's right-hand after a strong surge from Maicon.

And the same man fired only inches over the bar with seven minutes remaining having been teed up 20 yards out by Sneijder before Bale took over the San Siro for the closing minutes.

He scored his second in similar fashion to his first with a strong run into the box and another powerful low finish.

And before time was up, the 21-year-old had completed his hat-trick and put us to within a goal of the hosts after being teed up in the box by Lennon.

It's fair to say that with just a little more injury time we may well have achieved the unthinkable with Inter in shellshock.

But although we had to settle for the 4-3 scoreline, this seemed like a distant hope halfway through and much can be taken from the character shown with the return fixture coming up at the Lane on November 2.

Spurs (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone (Palacios, 80), Jenas, Bale; Modric (Cudicini, 10); Crouch (Keane, 67)
Subs not used: Kaboul, Bentley, Kranjcar, Pavlyuchenko.

Inter (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu (Pandev, 61); Zanetti, Stankovic (Santon, 50); Biabiany (Cordoba, 75), Sneijder, Coutinho; Eto'o
Subs not used: Castellazzi, (Materazzi, Cambiasso, Muntari

Goals: Inter Milan - Zanetti 2, Eto'o 11 pen, Stankovic 14, Eto'o 35. Spurs - Bale 52, 90, 90.

Attendance: 49,551.

Referee: Mr Damir Skomina (Slovenia).