Gareth Bale produced another match winning performance as Tottenham defeated West Ham United at Upton Park to move into third place in the Premier League. His inspirational display keeps alive Spurs’ objective for the season – a place in next season’s Champions League.
With each passing Tottenham game it is becoming increasingly difficult to find superlatives to describe the performance of Gareth Bale and his amazing match winning goals. Last night Bale earned the ‘Man of the Match’ tag but until his second goal in the 89th minute, that award would probably have gone to the West Ham goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen. To that point, he had denied Bale and Steven Caulker with a number of excellent saves in the second half as the Spurs’ assault on the West Ham goal increased. Tottenham now face the north London derby on Sunday from 3rd place in the League with a two point ladvantage over Chelsea with Arsenal a further two points behind.
West Ham United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Scorers: Carroll (p), Cole Bale (2), Sigurdsson
Team: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Vertonghen; Parker (Livermore), Dembele (Carroll); Lennon, Holtby (Sigurdsson), Bale; Adebayor Subs: (unused) Friedel, Naughton, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto
It was a typically competitive London derby throughout the 90 minutes and Andre Villas-Boas had selected a team capable of coping with West Ham’s aerial threat. In defence Hugo Lloris, Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker returned with Jan Vertonghen moving to left back to provide additional height in deence. Clint Dempsey was injured so Lewis Holtby started on the left of midfield with Gareth Bale assigned a role behind the lone striker, Emmanuel Adebayor. Sam Allardyce has fashioned West Ham into a team in his own image – battling, robust, tenacious, totally committed and in your face.
As was expected West Ham started with endeavour and high energy with early challenges on Mousa Dembele and Adebayor. Spurs quickly got hold of the ball and put together a period of passing to slow the game down. On four minutes, Bale fired in his first warning shot but it went wide. Dembele was booked in the seventh minute for a foul in retaliation for what he perceived had been a foul on him. He then sailed very close to the wind with a number of challenges that could have brought him another yellow card.
Lloris dealt comfortably with a low shot straight at him and then a shot by Jarvis curled wide as West Ham threatened. After 12 minutes Spurs broke with good passing from defence allowing Bale to find Aaron Lennon whose shot was blocked. A minute later, Spurs went ahead as an attempted pass by Dembele to Adebayor was knocked across the edge of the area by a defender towards Bale. He collected the ball, beat the defenders and fired a shot across the goalkeeper.
Spurs 1 – 0
Tottenham had withstood West Ham’s early threat and gained the ascendancy with Holtby putting an inviting cross into the area but no-one had followed up to finish it off. Slowly, West Ham came back into the game and Lloris had to rush out of his area to clear a long through ball and then Dembele tracked back to dispossess Diame with a good tackle in the area. Spurs threatened with two quick counter-attacks from Holtby and a three man charge by Adebayor, Vertonghen and Bale who ignored the support and opted to shoot but it was easily gather by the goalkeeper.
In the 25th minute, Scott Parker who was returning to Upton park for the first time since his transfer in August, 2011, brought down Carroll in the penalty area with an over zealous tackle. A penalty was awarded and Carroll powered it into the roof of the net with Lloris diving in the opposite direction.
West Ham 1 – 1
The remainder of the first half was battled out in midfield but as the interval approached both teams found a second wind and a greater attacking momentum. Walker blocked a shot from Jarvis after 38 minutes and Lloris took a good catch, under pressure, from the corner. Holtby had a shot deflected over after a good pass from Dembele and the goalkeeper denied Caulker with the first of his saves from the defender’s header at a corner. Lloris punched a West Ham cross clear and in the final minute, Bale put a free-kick over the wall, it dipped but went just wide.
West Ham started the second period with renewed vigour as Lloris held a Carroll header. An early break by Spurs enabled Bale and Adebayor to release Vertonghen on the left to cross but it was headed out. From the corner, Caulker was again foiled by another good save from Jaaskelainen. West Ham built up the pressure on Spurs’ back line and Dembele held Cole o the edge of the area. From the free-kick, Lloris made the catch under pressure. Spurs forward threat was limited as they defended but in the 56th minute they had two chances to go ahead but the goalkeeper denied them with a double save. Gylfi Sigurdson replaced Holtby and within a minute fired in a low shot which the goalkeeper pushed onto the post. The ball rebounded to Adebayor who headed towards goal but Jaaskelainen saved again.
Less than two minutes later, West Ham were ahead. Vertonghen allowed Cole to run into the area, behind the defence, to collect a ball on the right. Cole turned and put the ball beyond Lloris after 58 minutes.
West Ham 2 – 1
The final thirty minutes of the game became a contest between Bale and Jaaskelainen as West Ham battled to hold on. Tottenham were not going to be denied and as West Ham defending became more desperate, they presented Bale with a number of opportunities to shoot from free-kicks but on this occasion he just couldn’t get the right touch. Jaaskelainen, however, made a greet save to touch a dipping shot by Bale over the bar and then Caulker was denied a goal he deserved with the goalkeeper making another save from a header at a corner.
After 76 minutes, Spurs were awarded a free-kick, wide on the right. Bale’s teasing cross caused mayhem in the home defence and from a scramble at the back post, Sigurdsson scored his first goal for Tottenham in the Premier League to bring the score level.
Spurs 2 – 2
Spurs threat was increasing as the West Ham defence tired and Jaaskelainen made saves from Bale and Adebayor and then Vertonghen’s shot was blocked. In the final ten minutes the home side summoned some extra energy to renew their threat on the Tottenham goal but Lloris dealt comfortably with the crosses. In a last gasp effort a Sigurdsson cross was just too high for Adebayor but in the final minute Spurs attacked through Bale. He was impeded but Spurs retained possession and Tom Carroll who had replaced Dembele returned the ball to Bale who had picked himself up. He assessed the situation and curled a delightful shot into the top corner of the net, beyond a disbelieving Jaaskelainen.
Tottenham 3 – 2
Another last minute goal from Tottenham, another outstanding performance from Gareth Bale with two more wonder goals for his personal ‘Goals of the Season’ collection. Tottenham had overcome a battling and very determined West Ham side who gave everything but were foiled by the sheer class of Gareth Bale.
Tottenham have entered a very difficult run of fixtures in the perfect way – with a win at Upton Park taking them into 3rd place. Now they move on to the little matter of the north London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon.