Champions League - Tottenham punished for sloppy start
Four goals in 35 first-half minutes gave Internazionale a 4-3 victory over 10-man Tottenham despite a stunning hat-trick from Gareth Bale in their Champions League Group A clash at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Rafael Benitez's side looked set to hand Spurs a humiliating lesson after racing 4-0 up but three rasping strikes from Bale in the second half left the European champions relieved to hear the final whistle.
Javier Zanetti got the hosts off to an electric start with a clinical finish inside two minutes, and Spurs' misery was compounded when Heurelho Gomes was shown a straight red card to gift Inter their second as Samuel Eto'o dispatched the resulting spot kick.
Dejan Stankovic rounded off a stunning move to make it three inside a quarter of an hour, and Eto'o doubled his tally 10 minutes before the break. Bale's magnificent solo effort in the 52nd minute looked to have been all but a consolation strike.
But two inspired stoppage-time efforts from the 21-year-old further reduced the deficit and changed the complexion of the match to the extent that Benitez's side were less than jubilant at the final whistle.
A vociferous atmosphere was generated inside the stadium, and within seconds the home fans were yet more fervent after Zanetti rounded off a sweeping move with a composed finish after fine build-up play from Eto'o and the ebullient Philippe Coutinho.
Six minutes later and the match seemed effectively extinguished: Gomes roared out of his goal and clattered into Eto'o, who went down in a crumpled heap inside the Spurs box after latching on to Wesley Sneijder's through ball.
Gomes was promptly shown the red card, and substitute Carlo Cudicini was left helpless as Eto'o dispatched the spot kick with aplomb to double the hosts' lead and leave the visitors stunned.
Inter were three up inside 15 minutes as Spurs were carved open once more with Maicon exchanging a slick one-two with Coutinho on the edge of the penalty area before Stankovic lashed the ball home with an embarrassing amount of space at his disposal.
Crouch cut an isolated figure in attack for Spurs, but the striker squandered a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit on the half hour mark as he headed over from close range after out jumping Walter Samuel to meet Lennon's dinked delivery.
But Spurs were being ripped apart at will by Inter at the other end, and the hosts notched up a fourth in the 35th minute: Coutinho slid an incisive through ball beyond William Gallas, and the equally hapless Alan Hutton could not prevent Eto'o from finding an impeccable finish.
Redknapp, who was apoplectic with rage throughout the first period, no doubt gave his side a fearful roasting at the break, and Bale responded in the perfect fashion seven minutes in.
The Welshman produced an inspired solo effort to jink past four Inter players with a 67-yard run, then drilled an unerring low shot to beat the diving Julio Cesar at his far post.
Robbie Keane was introduced against his former club in the 67th minute at the expense of the weary and frustrated Crouch, but it was Bale who made the late impact: the Welshman hurtled forward before nestling the ball in the far corner with another rasping effort.
Seconds later, Bale had clinched his hat-trick with a third clinical finish to beat Cesar after Lennon had split the Inter defence with a lightning run and picked out the winger in space down the left.
The defeat leaves Tottenham in second spot behind Inter in Group A after FC Twente shared a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen, while the European champions assume a three-point lead at the top.