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Bale hurts Inter again as Chelsea stumble in Romania

updated 5:34 PM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
Gareth Bale was on target as Tottenham beat Inter Milan 3-0 in the Europa League
Gareth Bale was on target as Tottenham beat Inter Milan 3-0 in the Europa League
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gareth Bale scores as Tottenham thrash Inter Milan 3-0 in the Europa League
  • Chelsea beaten 1-0 by Steaua Bucharest in their last-16 first leg tie
  • Newcastle draw 0-0 away at Guus Hiddink's Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia
  • Lazio beat VfB Stuttgart 2-0 in Germany while Fenerbahce topple Viktoria Plzen

(CNN) -- Gareth Bale's stunning hat-trick against Inter Milan in the Champions League in 2010 announced the Welshman as a player the world should keep an eye on.

That virtuoso performance ultimately came in a losing cause as the Italian side dumped Bale's Tottenham out of the European Champions League and went on to win the continent's premier club competition.

Times have changed for Inter, who are struggling in Serie A and staring down the barrel of a Europa League exit after Bale inspired his English side to a 3-0 victory in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Bale nodded Tottenham in front at White Hart Lane and his opener was added to by Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen as Andre Villas-Boas' side put themselves in a commanding position.

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They are now odds on to knock Inter out when they travel to Italy for the second leg next week, though Bale will miss the game after picking up a yellow card for diving, a theme that has dogged him in recent months.

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The 23-year-old has now been booked for diving six times since the start of 2012, his third yellow in the Europa League leading to a one-match ban.

Bale told ITV: "We played well and set tempo from the first whistle, we made it difficult for them. I'm enjoying playing and it gives us a good lead going into the away leg."

While Tottenham continue to flourish in Europe, their Premier League counterparts -- European champions Chelsea -- are not enjoying life in the Europa League.

They won the Champions League for the first time in their history last season, but became the first defending club to go out in the group stages this year.

And after limping through against lowly Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic in the last round, they sank to 1-0 defeat in Romania to Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their tie.

With the majority of Chelsea's fans vehemently opposed to the installation of Rafa Benitez as their interim manager, and voicing their displeasure at every game, another lackluster display will not do much for the Spaniard's popularity.

Raul Rusescu's penalty decided the game -- he scored from the spot after being fouled by Ryan Bertrand.

Fernando Torres tested Ciprian Tatarusanu with a volley just before halftime and Eden Hazard went close as the game entered its dying stages as his volley grazed the crossbar.

"It was a difficult game, you could see the atmosphere and the pitch was not the best," Benitez told ESPN.

"It was a soft penalty to give in this situation with so many officials. We cannot change that now. The referee gave the penalty but no red card? Strange."

English Premier League side Newcastle drew 0-0 away at Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia. The match was played at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium due to security concerns in Anzhi's home territory of Dagestan.

Newcastle's returning French winger Hatem Ben Arfa had the best chance of the match but saw his effort saved while Anzhi's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o looked dangerous for the home side.

Italian outfit Lazio took a firm grip of their clash with VfB Stuttgart thanks to a 2-0 victory in Germany.

Lazio, riding high in Serie A, have a formidable lead to protect back in Rome next week after goals from Ederson and Ogenyi Onazi.

A late goal from Pierre Webo put Turkish club Fenerbahce in control of their tie against Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic.

Levante and Russian club Rubin Kazan drew 0-0 in an ill tempered game in Spain. Cristian Ansaldi got his marching orders first for the visitors before Michel was dismissed two minutes later.

FC Basel beat Russian side Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 in the first leg in Switzerland. Goals from Marcelo Diaz and Alexander Frei sealed the win while Zenit had Carlos Luis Neto sent off late on.

An own goal from Cedric Carrasso handed Benfica a 1-0 win over French side Bordeaux in Portugal.

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