Bale shakes off injury to lead Spurs attack in victory over Red Bulls
New York Red Bulls 1 Tottenham 2
Gareth Bale made another prompt return from injury and scored as Tottenham came from behind to beat the Red Bulls and win the inaugural Barclays New York Cup.
Bale, whose fitness and injuries have largely stolen the headlines during Spurs’ tour of America, headed home from a 59th-minute corner to cancel out Kenny Cooper’s early penalty – and Gylfi Sigurdsson hit a stunning winner moments later as the Lilywhites returned to England on a high.
Eyebrows had been raised at the start of Spurs’ tour when Bale, who had withdrawn from Team GB due to injury, played against LA Galaxy - and scored - before the Olympics had even begun.
The Welshman went on to face Liverpool in Baltimore on Saturday and suffered an ankle injury after a challenge from Charlie Adam which prompted him the brand the Scot a “coward”.
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It was initially feared that Bale might miss the rest of Spurs’ pre-season preparations and possibly even the start of the Premier League – but he made another rapid recovery and, just three days on, was fit to play 74 minutes against the Red Bulls tonight.
Bale, who was wearing the No9 shirt once again, started as the centre-forward, playing at the top of Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
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However, with Jermain Defoe back in the UK following the tragic death of his cousin, and with Harry Kane having played the full game against Liverpool in 35-degree heat at the weekend, it seemed that Bale’s positioning was a case of necessity rather than a clue to any long-term tactics.
Heurelho Gomes also started in New York, and he was quickly in the spotlight as the Red Bulls’ new signing Tim Cahill – formerly of Everton – got goalside of Jan Vertonghen and was shoved from behind by the centre-back.
A penalty was correctly given and Cooper sent Gomes the wrong way from the spot to give the hosts an eighth-minute lead.
Bale nearly equalised shortly afterwards, seeing a vicious, swerving free-kick tipped over the bar by Bill Gaudette, and David Bentley then cut into the box from the left flank and saw his low shot deflected wide.
It was a quick, open and entertaining game – as opposed to the turgid stalemate with Liverpool in Spurs’ previous outing – and Gaudette was called into action again in the 18th minute.
Tom Huddlestone won the ball in the Red Bulls’ half and exchanged passes with Bale before unleashing a fizzing 20-yard drive which was palmed out for a corner – and Bale met Bentley’s ensuing delivery but directed his header wide of the near post.
Having missed virtually the whole of the last campaign, Huddlestone was still showing signs of rustiness, getting caught on the ball by an opponent behind him and seeing an overly-elaborate square pass with the outside of his foot intercepted.
But, on the other hand, Bentley was enjoying his most effective pre-season outing under the watchful eye of Andre Villas-Boas.
Neat and tidy in possession, his trademark step-overs were used to create space rather than to show off, and a swerving, pinpoint crossfield pass from one flank to the other served as a reminder of the accuracy which had made him such an attractive signing back in 2008.
Bentley was withdrawn at the interval, with Bale moving to the left and Kane coming on to take his place up front while William Gallas and Jermaine Jenas also replaced Vertonghen and Huddlestone respectively.
It took just nine minutes for Bale to create an opening from the wing, crossing for Lennon, who shot first-time and saw his thumping effort brilliantly touched over the bar by Gaudette.
Just before the hour-mark the Welshman found the equaliser, leaping to meet Sigurdsson’s corner and directing his header into the top left corner.
Sigurdsson had generally had a quiet game – but four minutes after his assist he gave Spurs the lead, attacking the box from the left, cutting inside to nutmeg Markus Holgersson before whipping the ball around Gaudette and into the far corner.
It could have been 3-1 moments later as Sigurdsson delivered another corner from the right, and Michael Dawson directed the bouncing ball onto the crossbar with his shin.
Bale departed after 74 minutes, with Andros Towsend taking his place, and the incoming young winger enjoyed a lively cameo.
The 21-year-old crossed for Kane, whose effort was saved by Gaudette, appealed for a late penalty after going down under pressure from Jan Gunnar Solli and got a brief sight of goal right at the death but saw his shot deflected into the keeper’s hands.
Tottenham: Gomes, Walker (Naughton 60), Dawson, Vertonghen (Gallas 45), Assou-Ekotto (Bassong 82), Livermore (Carroll 62), Huddlestone (Jenas 45), Bentley (Kane 45), Sigurdsson (Kaboul 82), Lennon (Smith 82), Bale (Townsend 74)
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs