Bale in the Shade
‘Gareth Bale is the footballer of the moment, but even he was eclipsed by the 19-year old Samuel Umtiti of Lyon in the Europa League last week. Bale turned in a match-winning performance but Umtiti, born in Cameroon, but a France international from Under 17 to Under 20 level, scored arguably the goal of the season. It would certainly make my top 10.’
Umtiti scored an exceptional goal – he met the ball perfectly on the half-volley and arrowed it past a motionless Brad Friedel into the top corner of the net. As my co-writer Alan’s wife, Sue, said at the time, “You can’t blame Friedel, even if he had Lloris in there with him as well, the two of them couldn’t have stopped that.”
The goal by Umiti is deserving of a place in any top 10, but to suggest that it over-shadowed Bale’s impact on the game at White Hart Lane is incredulous. Bale provided two goals of precision from free-kicks, the second being in the final seconds of the match and swung the result in Tottenham’s favour.
Umtiti, had no time to think, the clearance fell to him and he made perfect contact to score. On another day the ball could have ended up in the middle of the Lyon fans behind the Park Lane goal. It was an instinctive strike and worked to perfection. I noted, however, that he didn’t manager to repeat the feat in Lyon’s 4 – 0 success over Bordeaux on Sunday. The history of football is littered with many players who have scored outstanding goals but in many cases they have been ‘one goal wonders’. Tottenhsm’s legendary Ron Henry is one of them with a winning goal against Manchester United – his only goal in his Spurs’ career. Similarly, Phil Beal scored a special goal against QPR but there was only one. Of the present squad, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has scored on four occasions with three of them being outstanding strikes but none of them would overshadow Gareth Bale’s contribution in a Tottenham shirt.
Bale, unlike Umtiti, had time to think and prepare before both strikes on Thursday evening. It is all the time that it takes for the referee to move the opposition back the appropriate distance that puts additional pressure on the player taking the free-kick. There is the extra pressure of taking the responsibility for the free-kick when team mates were putting themselves forward. On both occasions, Bale was aware that it was now or never as the seconds ticked away before half-time and in added time. There would be no second chance for him. He faced the pressure and delivered. His hours of training had paid off handsomely. As Bale lined up the free-kick at the end of the second half, almost everyone inside White Hart Lane and watching on television was probably thinking, “He can’t do it again!” Unbelievably, Gareth Bale proved all the doubters wrong and scored. Lyon couldn’t believe it.
Umtiti’s goal was outstanding but what Bale did was equally exceptional. He delivered two amazing goals at crucial times in the game and secured a Tottenham triumph. The Lyon defender’s strike may be a contender for ‘Goal of the Season’ but Bale scored two outstanding goals in a season of exceptional strikes. How many of Bale’s goals will be in contention for that accolade come the end of the season?