Spurs' away goal the antidote for 'il Biscione' venom

Posted by Mike Whittaker

As expected, Tottenham are through to the Europa League quarter-finals, but without talisman Gareth Bale on Thursday Spurs looked like a completely different team than we saw last week.

They travelled to the snake pit of the Giuseppe Meazza, and 'il Biscione' proved the out-of-form Inter still has venom in their fangs with a stunning 4-1 victory.

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Before the match kicked off, I -- like so many others -- thought that the dominant Spurs 3-0 win in London was more than enough to see them through to the next round. I was so convinced it was asking too much for an Inter win following their recent form that before the game I tweeted: "I'm not expecting Inter to win tonight, but all I want to see is a performance to make us Interisti proud."

The team promptly responded by providing the small crowd of supporters on with a carnival of great football, that saw them defy their critics by scoring four goals, and narrowly missing two or three others that could have brought about one of the greatest European comebacks in history.

Things would have been so much different if several chances had ended up in the back of Brad Friedel's net: Rodrigo Palacio's long-range shot hit the crossbar in the first half; Esteban Cambiasso sent his shot inches wide just seconds before the 90th minute whistle.

However, it was fate that kept those shots out, and Lady Luck teased Inter and their fans with the chance of qualifying before handing Tottenham a fortunate rebound as Samir Handanovic saved Mousa Dembele's powerful shot from outside the area just to send it in front of Emmanuel Adebayor, who played the perfect poacher shot by just happening to be in the right place at the right time, returning hope to the traveling Spurs faithful.

Speaking of faithful fans, the huge disappointment for me came when I saw that despite Inter offering all their season ticket holders free entry to this match, very few actually showed to show their support to the home side.

Out of the San Siro's huge 80,000 capacity, the fixture only managed to fill a pitiful 18,241 seats, including away supporters. I realise fans are angry at the recent showings by Inter and how the club is being run. But fan support is critical, especially in important games such as this, and even just several thousand more Interisti in the stands may have been enough to boost the Nerazzurri players to seal that one final missing goal.

It's difficult to explain the emotional roller-coaster that I experienced during this game, but all Inter fans will know exactly what I'm talking about. It is an experience I have come to know well during my years as an Interista. It is games such as this that earned the Nerazzurri the title Pazza Inter, as through their history they have put fans through stressful fixtures similar to this that could easily drive us insane from the edge-of-your-seat tension that was shown during the 120 minutes of this second leg.

Despite the club's exit from the competition, I can honestly say I am enormously proud of the result the team pulled out -- to finish with a 4-4 aggregate result after starting three goals down is a phenomenal achievement, and made for one of the most entertaining games I've witnessed this season.

Every Inter player on the pitch performed well, and more importantly looked hungry and passionate about achieving victory. This desire has been missing from the Inter squad for far too long, and I just hope it continues on for the remainder of the season in Serie A.

It's difficult to pick out the outstanding Inter playersas they were all fantastic, but Javier Zanetti and Handanovic held the defensive side of the squad together remarkably well. Up front, Antonio Cassano and Palacio plagued the Tottenham backline and Freidel with countless shots (12 on target, out of an impressive 20 attempts.)

A special mention gos to two Inter players who I believe made a real difference.

Mateo Kovacic really came into his own playing the deep playmaker role in the centre of midfield, constantly chasing the ball, and making decisive passes that opened up the ranks of Tottenham players.

I was especially impressed with a sublime back-heel pass he performed that left his markers baffled as to where the ball had gone. The glimpses of genius the 18-year-old keeps teasing us with has me excited to see what he will be do once he has settled into the squad and become a regular starter.

The second player who deserves special praise is one who may surprise you as much as it does me - Jonathan! It is no secret that I consider the Brazilian wingback to be one of, if not the, weakest player on the squad, but against Tottenham he was like a different player. His defensive work was outstanding and his passes and crosses were pinpoint almost every time. Realistically, this game was probably one in a million for him, but give credit where it is due.

The performance Thursday was one that was reminiscent of the Inter from before and during the Jose Mourinho era. The Nerazzurri showed true grit and determination. For me, it also proved this squad, one that has come under fire so often this season, as I predicted, has the ability and capability to perform at a level expected from a club of Inter's stature.

As owner Massimo Moratti said the match: "When things go better you realise everyone's quality: tonight we saw that we can rely on young and older players alike, who have character and pride. This mix, this form needs to be maintained."

Playing as a united team they took the proverbial bull by the horns and against all the odds they fought hard not just for the victory, but also for the pride of their club and the fans by sticking to the mantra of "Non Mollare Mai" - never give up.

Hopefully, with this boost to the team's confidence, it will signal a change in the fortunes of the team in the league, starting with the trip to Sampdoria on Sunday.

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