Football: Inter Milan might not be the side they once were, but nonetheless it speaks volumes about the way that Tottenham are playing at the moment that the Italians were swept aside so comfortably.
Andrea Stramaccioni's men barely touched the ball for the opening 10 minutes. By the 18th minute, they were already trailing by two goals, thanks to efforts from the prolific Gareth Bale and Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Jan Vertonghen headed home from a Bale corner on 53 minutes to all but book Tottenham's place in the next round.
The 2010 Champions League winners should have lost by much more and they will enter the second leg with little hope, even with Bale suspended after he was justly booked for diving in the first half.
That transgression marred the Welshman's performance a little. He has now been booked four times this season for simulation and it was hard to argue with referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz's decision.
Tottenham's slick performance, coming so soon off the back of Sunday's 2-1 win over Arsenal that gives them a seven-point cushion over their local rivals in the race for a top four finish, rendered their star man's misdemeanour a mere footnote.
Bale, whose goalscoring feats barely raise an eyebrow anymore, again made the difficult look almost mundane as he notched his 11 goal in his last nine games for club and country.
With six minutes on the clock, Sigurdsson wriggled free on the left flank and whipped in a high ball into the Inter area. Bale, playing in his now customary central role, was on hand to rise above a statuesque Inter defence and nod home with a textbook downward header that gave keeper Samir Handanovic absolutely no chance.
Handanovic was on hand seconds later to beat away an effort from Jermain Defoe, who was making his first start in a month. The game was not yet 10 minutes old, but the Italians looked in danger of being overrun.
Seconds after Inter flashed an effort over the bar through Mateo Kovacic, Sigurdsson doubled Tottenham's advantage. Defoe turned on the edge of the area and brought a solid parry from Handanovic. However the former Swansea player was first to react to the loose ball and slotted home from close range.
Ricardo Alvarez should have pulled a goal back for the visitors shortly before the interval. The Argentinian forward was sent clear by Antonio Cassano and looked odds-on to score, but he drilled his effort a good couple of yards wide of Brad Friedel's goal.
The game, and possibly the tie, was all but over within minutes of the restart. Moments after scuffing a shot wide from close range, Vertonghen rose highest to a Bale corner and powered a bullet header past Handanovic.
Inter were playing with all the belief of a side that had lost eight of their last 11 away games. Tottenham, on the other hand, were buoyant and their support rejoiced in the one-sided nature of the affair, goading the visiting Italian fans with chants of "Are you Arsenal in disguise?"
Andre Villas-Boas's men did not rest on their laurels, perhaps sensing that Inter could not be so meek in the return leg next week. Bale fired inches wide before Defoe was desperately unlucky not to score when his low shot squirmed under Handanovic but behind to safety.
Other sides in a similar position would have tried to sit back and shut up shop, but Tottenham showed endearing innocence by continuing to attack the Italian giants with relish.
On 70 minutes, Aaron Lennon made defender Christian Chivu look foolish, the Englishman nut-megging the big Romanian before running through on goal. A fourth looked on the cards, but Handanovic, not for the first time, pulled off magical save.
The rout Tottenham deserved was not to be, but they will head to Milan confident that, barring a disaster, a place in the Europa League quarter-finals is theirs.
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