Bale brilliance ends Liverpool run and takes advantage of Arsenal slip-up
Premier League: Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1
Gareth Bale scored a goal for each side and set up Aaron Lennon with a wonderful solo run to bring Liverpool’s eight-match unbeaten run to an end and see them leapfrog rivals Arsenal into fifth position.
The Welshman scored what has to be one of the most unlucky own goals in Premier League history to tarnish his evening slightly, but Tottenham still managed to come away with their second successive win despite an edgy second half in north London.
Bale tore West Ham apart at White Hart Lane on Sunday and he began this evening’s game in similarly devastating fashion, embarking on a 50-yard run before playing in Lennon for the opener after seven minutes.
The Welshman then smashed home a brilliant swirling free-kick to make it 2-0 after 16 minutes, the ball looping and dipping over the wall leaving Pepe Reina completely non-plussed.
The win, which moves Spurs above Arsenal and Everton into fifth, did not come easily - but it did remind the club’s critics that in Bale they have a man capable of winning a match almost single-handedly.
Playing at the same high tempo that helped them to destroy West Ham on Sunday, Tottenham flew out of the blocks and stamped their authority on the game from the off on a bitterly cold night in north London.
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Reina got a taste of things to come when he saw a swirling Bale free-kick fly at him from 30 yards in the fourth minute, punching nervously away.
Bale was key to Tottenham’s quick start. The Welshman latched on to Jermain Defoe’s pass after the England striker had pinched the ball off Steven Gerrard, but he could only shoot at Reina.
Tottenham’s early pressure paid off as Spurs took the lead in style. Bale collected the ball on the half way line and breezed past four players before squaring to Lennon, who tapped home from close range.
Luis Suarez spearheaded the Liverpool fightback, testing Hugo Lloris with a low drive after Michael Dawson’s tackle had knocked the ball in to the Uruguayan’s path.
A mix-up between Lloris and Kyle Walker then almost gifted the visitors an equaliser. The Frenchman rushed out of his goal to clear Suarez’s through-ball - but the defender took the ball away from his goalkeeper into the path of Jordan Henderson, who blazed wide of an open goal.
The Spurs fans mocked Henderson for his miss and the midfielder’s evening took another turn for the worse moments later when he was harshly adjudged to have fouled Dempsey 30 yards out.
Bale took a five-yard run up and despatched a powerful drive which dipped and swerved over the wall, completely bamboozling Reina, who could only stand and watch the ball sail in to his right.
Liverpool thought they should have had a penalty in the 36th minute when Steven Gerrard went down under pressure from Mousa Dembele, but Phil Dowd waved play on. The danger was not over for Spurs though, as Dawson dribbled in to the path of Suarez, whose shot was cleared off the line by Walker.
Liverpool continued to push for an equaliser after the break, but they almost conceded a third when Martin Skrtel’s poor clearance set Defoe free but Dempsey selfishly muscled his team-mate off the ball and shot wide.
Spurs were struggling to get on the ball and their best threat came from set plays. Bale fizzed another long-range bender just wide in the 68th minute.
Two minutes later the former Southampton man unwittingly put Liverpool back in the game.
Lennon was well-placed on the line to clear Gerrard’s header, but unfortunately for Spurs, the winger’s clearance cracked Bale square in the face and flew in to the home net.
Bale was then jeered by the away fans after being booked for diving, although replays showed Daniel Agger did make contact with the winger’s trailing leg as he charged at the Reds defence.
With 10 minutes to go Agger hooked the ball back for Suarez, but the striker snatched at the ball and his volley flew over.
Jonjo Shelvey chipped just wide and Suarez thought he should have had a penalty in a nervous final few minutes, but Tottenham held on until the final whistle, which Villas-Boas greeted with a huge double fist-pump.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Dawson, Vertonghen, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Huddlestone, 88), Bale, Dempsey (Sigurdsson, 63), Defoe.
Unused subs: Friedel, Naughton, Livermore, Townsend, Carroll.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Downing (Assaidi, 78), Henderson (Shelvey, 63), Gerrard, Allen, Sterling, Suarez, Jose Enrique.
Unused subs: Jones, Sahin, Carragher, Fernandez Saez, Wisdom.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)