May 18 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at White Hart Lane
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Europa League last 32: Tottenham 2 Lyon 1
Gareth Bale produced another devastating matchwinning performance, scoring a free-kick in each half to lead Tottenham to victory in the home leg of their Europa League tie with Lyon.
Bale hit the opener on the stroke of half-time from 40 yards and, although Lyon left-back Samuel Umtiti levelled after the interval with an equally fine strike - and a valuable away goal - it was Bale who had the final word as he hit a dramatic injury-time winner from 25 yards.
In doing so, the Welshman took his tally to seven goals in five games for club and country – and he has also scored all of the Lilywhites’ last six goals, stretching back to his solo effort in the 1-1 draw at Norwich on January 30.
There were five changes to the Lilywhites side that had beaten Newcastle at the weekend - four of them in a much-changed rearguard.
Brad Friedel replaced Hugo Lloris, who missed out on the chance to face his former club, and William Gallas, Jan Vertonghen and Benoit Assou-Ekotto also came into the defence, while Emmanuel Adebayor returned to the starting line-up up front.
Meanwhile, Lyon’s Steed Malbranque returned to White Hart Lane after spending two years at Tottenham between 2006 and 2008.
Bale initially adopted a central role behind Adebayor, with Clint Dempsey moving wide to the left-hand side – and the American helped to create an early opening, exchanging passes with the overlapping Benoit Assou-Ekotto, whose low cross was fended behind for a corner.
However, Lyon quickly grew into the game and Gueida Fofana tricked his way between Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon before sending a 30-yard effort over the angle of post and bar.
Spurs then escaped a penalty shout as Jan Vertonghen appeared to trip Bafetimbi Gomis in the box, but the referee waved away the appeals.
At the other end, Mousa Dembele played Adebayor through on goal in the 26th minute with a superb through ball, but the Togo international blazed wastefully wide of the near post.
Despite that opening, Spurs were struggling to make their home advantage count and get Bale into the game, and Villas-Boas made a tactical change, moving Bale out to the left and switching Dempsey into the centre.
Moments later, Lennon and Walker combined down the right with the full-back getting round the back and firing in a low cross for Bale, who seemed certain to score – but the Welshman somehow contrived to miss the target from close range and, although the ball fell for Adebayor, he was unable to react in time and prodded it at the grounded keeper.
It was an unusual gaffe from Bale, given his sublime recent form - but he made amends at the end of the first half, making the breakthrough in some style by sending a swerving 40-yard free-kick past Remy Vercoutre and into the bottom left corner.
Bale lined up on the left flank again after the restart, but it was Lyon who started the second half on the front foot.
Gomis’ low shot from the edge of the box was comfortable for Friedel, but the French side equalised 10 minutes after the interval with a strike every bit as good as Bale’s opener.
Gallas headed the initial right-wing cross away to the far side of the penalty box, but Umtiti ran onto the loose ball and drilled it across goal into the far corner, leaving Friedel and his team-mates rooted and stunned.
The away goal was a body blow for Tottenham, and it nearly got worse as Alexandre Lacazette beat three men and unleashed a rising drive which Friedel did brilliantly to palm over the bar.
Bale forced Vercoutre into a save at the other end, but Villas-Boas needed to inject fresh impetus into his team and he swapped Dempsey for Lewis Holtby before exchanging Lennon for Glyfi Sigurdsson.
There was little improvement to Tottenham’s threat, though, until the final moments. Bale flew down the left before playing a dangerous cross in between Adebayor and Holtby, and he then drove from left to right across the pitch before whipping a 25-yard shot at goal which Vercoutre had to parry.
There was just time for one more moment of drama as Spurs won a free-kick 25 yards out. It scarcely seemed possible that Bale could win the day once again, but he did, sending another swerving shot past the flailing Vercoutre at the death to send White Hart Lane into raptures.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon (Sigurdsson 78), Parker (Livermore 90), Dembele, Bale, Dempsey (Holtby 66), Adebayor
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