6 Things We Learned from Tottenham's Europa League Conquest of Inter Milan
Tottenham made their path to the Europa League quarterfinals a bit clearer after dispatching Inter Milan by a 3-0 score at White Hart Lane on Thursday night.
Spurs opened the scoring early on in the sixth minute, as Gareth Bale continued his blazing form with a headed goal.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen also contributed goals in the win for the North London club.
Andre Villas-Boas and company will head into the second leg at the San Siro in Milan next Thursday with a crucial three-goal cushion that should help them progress to the next stage of the competition.
Here are six things we learned from Tottenham's dominant performance against Inter.
Clean Sheet Has Plenty of Meaning in 2-Legged Tie
Amongst the outstanding offensive performance that will rightfully get plenty of praise, the Spurs back four turned in a stellar performance as well.
The back four in front of keeper Brad Friedel conceded just one shot on goal during the entire match and more importantly held Inter to a shutout.
In a two-legged tie like the ones that are played in the knockout stage of the Europa League, away goals can sometimes be the deciding factor.
Luckily for Tottenham, the away goals rule will only come into play in second leg if they are able to score at the San Siro.
Gareth Bale Is Human After All
Believe it or not, Gareth Bale still has flaws in the way he plays the game.
One of the biggest criticisms that Bale has received this season has been about his propensity to dive.
Bale's diving reared its ugly head in the 15th minute, as the Welshman picked up a yellow card for his theatrics in the penalty area.
Due to yellow card accumulation, Bale will be absent from the Tottenham starting 11 that visits the San Siro next Thursday.
While Bale's absence will not result in elimination from the Europa League for Spurs, his antics in the penalty area are still of high concern for supporters of the North London club.
Bale's New Role in Midfield Has Made Everyone Better
For most of the season, Gareth Bale has lined up on the left wing, but over the past few weeks, manager Andre Villas-Boas has begun to use Bale in a free-roaming role behind the forward in Tottenham's 4-2-3-1 formation.
While Bale has only officially made five starts in the central attacking midfield role, he has been given plenty of freedom by AVB to swap places in the attacking midfield trio with either Clint Dempsey or Gylfi Sigurdsson for quite some time now.
Sigurdsson has been an immediate beneficiary of Bale's presence in the center of the attacking trio by scoring twice in the last three Tottenham matches.
With the Spurs attack firing on all cylinders with Bale in the central midfield role, the club can soar to heights that have not been reached in the past.
Gylfi Sigurdsson Should Continue to Play on Left Wing
Just a few weeks ago, Spurs fans began to question the summer transfer of Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Since his insertion into the starting 11 against Lyon in the round of 32, Sigurdsson has shown why he was a coveted player by Tottenham management over the summer.
Sigurdsson has started over the injured Clint Dempsey and Lewis Holtby on the left wing, and he has delivered two goals and two assists in his last three games.
With Bale out of the lineup for the second leg, AVB should opt to keep Sigurdsson on the left wing and continue his recent success while Holtby should come into the central attacking role in the midfield trio.
Tottenham Could Potentially Win the Europa League
As the Europa League reaches the second leg of the round of 16 next Thursday, only a few clubs have emerged as favorites to win the competition.
Tottenham Hotspur is one of those clubs that have surged to the top of the list as a title contender.
While the draw will determine the fate of some clubs, Tottenham are in the midst of their best form in a few seasons and they can go up against any of the remaining 14 clubs and come out of a two-legged tie victorious.
Another positive for Spurs fans to dwell on is that Andre Villas-Boas won the competition with Porto two seasons ago.
Inter Are Not Who We Thought They Were
A lot has changed since Tottenham and Inter last met in the group stage of the 2010-11 edition of the UEFA Champions League.
Spurs are emerging as a title contender in England under AVB while Inter has been relegated to contending for the two Europa League spots in Serie A.
Inter also fail to possess the quality of stars—like the recently departed Wesley Sneijder—that led them to the Champions League title three seasons ago.
Plenty of things can change in a three-year span and it seems like Inter have fallen off of the grid at the moment as a club that can contend for a European title.
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