Zanetti, Eto'o (2), Stankovic put Nerazzurri four-nil up at break. Bale scores second-half hat-trick

MILAN - Defending European champions Inter beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza to take command at the top of Champions League Group A.

Javier Zanetti gave the Nerazzurri a dream start against Harry Redknapp's men, with Samuel Eto'o scoring twice and Dejan Stankovic also hitting the target to give Inter a mammoth 4-0 lead at the break against Spurs, reduced to ten men after the dismissal of goalkeeper Gomes.

Gareth Bale scored for the visitors shortly after the restart, adding two more in the closing minutes, but fortunately for Inter there was no time for a fourth.

Rafa Benitez kept faith with the starting eleven that saw off Cagliari in Sardinia and had to wait less than two minutes to see his team take the upper hand.

Zanetti laid off to Coutinho and continued his run into the box to collect Eto'o's pass and curl beyond Gomes for his first goal in black and blue since his effort in against Roma on 27 February 2008.

Worse was to follow for Spurs when their Brazilian keeper Gomes was sent off for a penalty foul on Biabiany. Redknapp brought on Cudicini for Modric and Eto'o stepped up to the spot to score the second.

A disastrous opening spell for the visitors became catastrophic when Stankovic added number three before the 15-minute mark.

The Serbian combined swiftly with Eto'o and fired past Cudicini for his 32nd goal in black and blue.

Eto'o rubbed salt into Tottenham's open wound ten minutes before the break, latching on to Coutinho's through ball and seeing his shot go in off Cudicini for his fourteenth of the season and sixth of the 2010/11 Champions League campaign.

The Nerazzurri lost Stankovic to injury just after the restart, forcing Benitez to shuffle his pack. His team barely had time to regroup when Bale went on a pacy run down the left and took the ball past Zanetti before arrowing a low shot past Julio Cesar and into the far corner.

Inter held on to their three-goal cushion until the last minute of normal time, Bale reducing the arrears with a carbon copy of his first goal.

The Welsh winger then completed his hat-trick in stoppage time with another crisp low shot to make the result look a lot less embarrassing, but on the night there was no doubting Inter's dominance.

Inter 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur (HT: 4-0)

Scorers: Zanetti 2, Eto'o (pen) 11, 35, Stankovic 14, Bale 52, 90, 90+1.

Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 25 Samuel, 26 Chivu (27 Pandev 61); 4 Zanetti, 5 Stankovic (39 Santon 52); 88 Biabiany (2 Cordoba 75), 10 Sneijder, 29 Coutinho; 9 Eto'o.
Subs not used: 12 Castellazzi, 11 Muntari, 19 Cambiasso, 23 Materazzi.

: Rafael Benitez.

Tottenham Hotspur: 1 Gomez; 2 Hutton, 13 Gallas, 19 Bassong, 32 Assu-Ekotto; 7 Lennon, 8 Jenas, 6 Huddlestone (12 Palacios 80), 14 Modric (23 Cudicini 10); 3 Bale; 15 Crouch (10 Keane 67).

Subs not used
: 4 Jounes, 5 Bentley, 9 Pavlyuchenko, 21 Kranjcar.

: Harry Redknapp.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).

Booked: Chivu 17, Palacios 89.
Sent off: Gomez 8.

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