BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 4TH MAY, 2013
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) SOUTHAMPTON 0 (0)
Referee:- Mark Clattenburg (not as per programme)
Assistants:- Mr. S. Ledger & Mr. M. Scholes
Fourth official:- Mr. T. Bates
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Adebayor, 59), Dembele (sub Holtby, 35), Huddlestone, Dempsey (sub Sigurdsson, 72); Bale; Defoe
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton, Caulker; Carroll
Booking:- Assou-Ekotto (Handball)
Southampton (4-4-2):- Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Shaw; Guly (sub Mayuka, 65), S. Davis, Cork, Lallana (Capt.) (sub Puncheon, 80); Lambert, Rodriguez
(Armband to Lambert)
Subs not used:- K. Davis; Yoshida, Forren, Ward-Prowse, De Ridder
Booked:- S. Davis (foul on Defoe)
Baled out (or should that be Baled in?)
Just when I was thinking that the appropriate headline would be "We're not Champions League, we're not Champions League", up popped Spurs' player of the season Gareth Bale to secure all three points with yet another sensational goal to take his personal league tally to
20 for the season, but more importantly to win the game and to keep Spurs in the race for next season's Champions League.
Andre Villas-Boas had started with Bale behind Defoe in a central slot, then at the start of the second half on the left, and finally on the right, from where he cut inside to score the oh, so vital winning goal for Spurs, who were once again, quite frankly, severely under par for most of the game.
There had been no sign of Scott Parker, even on the bench, and one assumes that he had suffered a training injury. Mousa Dembele had been risked, but this gamble had failed, as Lewis Holtby had to replace the Belgian midfielder after only 35 minutes. Tom Huddlestone had started a game which begged for his presence and assertion, but once again, he failed to make a significant mark, when given the opportunity.
Southampton, who had lost badly at home to West Brom last week, are still in need of a point of two for mathematical safety. They did not look like a side in fear of relegation, playing an adventurous 4-4-2, with Lambert and Rodriguez up front, and skipper Adam Lallana given freedom to come inside from his starting point on the left of midfield.
The game had been delayed for 30 minutes, due to traffic problems on the M25, and "Saints" kicked off towards the Paxton Road End. Huddlestone latched onto a loose ball and sent a long pass to Defoe, resulting in an early Spurs throw deep in the Southampton half.
After 5 minutes, Defoe picked up a loose defensive ball and sent Bale away towards the left. Bale's cross was blocked and ended up in the goalkeeper's hands.
Spurs had an escape after 10 minutes, when Nathan Clyne was put through into the Spurs area, but thankfully fired wide, with only Lloris in his way. Defoe had a half-chance at the other end, but that too was blocked.
In truth, there was little in the way of meaningful or attractive action to report. Southampton worked hard, and closed Spurs down in all areas,and in response, Spurs were too often slow and pensive in their build-up play. To be frank, Bale was not to be seen enough of the time, and of course, Defoe was not capable of winning and holding aerial balls.
Southampton came close after 35 minutes, when Lambert took a free kick from 25 yards. Lloris might have got a fingertip or two to the ball, which rebounded off the left post.
At last, just before the break, there was a little urgency from Spurs, when Bale and Assou-Ekotto combined on the left, but the goalkeeper held the resulting cross.
In the second half, Bale started on the left, whilst Dempsey played in a central position. Bale had been flagged offside minutes after the re-start, but he hit a rasping shot that rebounded off the bar.
Lallana got through on the left of the Spurs area, but Lloris held his shot. A free kick conceded by Huddlestone after 56 minutes was fired wide of Lloris's left post by Lambert.
Aaron Lennon, who sadly had little impact upon the game, was replaced by the energetic Emmanuel Adebayor, and suddenly Spurs started to play with width and more desire, with both full-backs coming forward more.
A longish ball by Huddlestone was controlled by Adebayor in the middle and fed on to Dempsey,who tried a first-time shot but failed to hit the target. He was soon replaced by Sigurdsson, who played on the left, with Bale on the right, and both Defoe and Adebayor up front.
Spurs were still struggling to forge chances though, although they were now dominating possession. Spurs won a corner after 78 minutes, through Walker and Bale. Huddlestone took the kick, and Boruc fumbled, but "Saints" managed to clear.
There was a nice move down the right wing by Adebayor and Bale, who got as far as the area, and went down, getting no sympathy from the late stand-in referee Mark Clattenburg. Bale stayed down for a while, before getting up of his own accord.
Spurs had forced little in the way of saves from the goalkeeper, and like my all-time favourite Spurs player, Jimmy Greaves (on so many occasions) Gareth Bale had not had much of an impact upon the game, but would score the vital goal.
Things all changed, with four minutes of normal time remaining. Lewis Holtby had sent a ball to the right flank from a central position, and Kyle Walker passed inside to Bale, who, in a flash, moved inside, before unleashing a lethal and powerful shot that beat Boruc, and sent the home crowd into raptures of delight.
Bale has now scored 20 Premier League goals, and needs just one more to emulate the records of Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham.
That one moment of pure Bale magic, against his old team, was enough to secure the win, and keep us the race for top four. I have to say though that we did not look like a team of Champions League quality. I do not fancy our chances at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
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