Spurs star’s back with a bang but defensive frailties cost Tottenham victory in LA
Pre-season friendly: LA Galaxy 1 Tottenham 1
Gareth Bale scored 17 minutes into his first pre-season outing at the Home Depot Centre in Los Angeles – but poor defending in the first half cost Tottenham as they were held to a draw.
Bale, who was wearing the number nine shirt as Spurs kicked off their tour of America, headed home from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross to open the scoring.
But the Lilywhites appeared to be attempting to implement the infamous ‘high line’ that Andre Villas-Boas had insisted upon at Chelsea, resulting in some anxious defending.
David Lopes equalised in the 29th minute and the ex-Spurs striker Robbie Keane got in behind the rearguard on two occasions before the break, but failed to capitalise.
The Lilywhites were more secure in the second half and had the best chances to bag the winner, with Defoe missing a one-on-one, Bale being denied a clear penalty and Sigurdsson shooting wide from 10 yards – but the game ended in a draw and Villas-Boas is now sweating on the fitness of Rafael van der Vaart and Kyle Walker, who both limped off during the game.
Spurs lined up in the same 4-2-3-1 formation they had employed in their 2-0 victory at Stevenage last Wednesday, with the new signings Jan Vertonghen and Sigurdsson both coming into the starting XI.
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Bale made his return from injury, and Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe were also available for the first time following Euro 2012.
Sebastien Bassong picked up where he had left off at Stevenage – out of position at left-back - while Sigurdsson joined Jake Livermore in a two-man shield in front of the back four.
Having impressed in the second half at the Lamex Stadium last week, Andros Townsend was given another chance to make an impact on the right side of the front four, with Van der Vaart playing in the hole behind Defoe, and Bale on the left.
It was Townsend who had the first strike on goal as a curling 25-yard effort was taken by a diving Brian Perk.
The two sides traded efforts, with Keane trying to lob Carlo Cudicini but sending his effort well wide, while Defoe latched onto Bale’s clever flick and forced another save from Perk with a 20-yard snapshot.
Spurs took the lead in the 17th minute, and it was Bale who got the goal, heading powerfully home from Sigurdsson’s inswinging left-wing cross.
That was as good as it got for the visitors in the first half though, as defensive frailties began to undermine their efforts.
Galaxy equalised just before the hour-mark and it was Bale who was at fault, failing to track Hector Jiminez, who ran in behind the Welshman, collected Marcelo Sarvas’ lofted through ball and delivered a low cross which centre-back Lopes converted from close range.
Five minutes later Keane darted in behind the Tottenham rearguard was failed to get his shot away, allowing Walker to recover - and Cudicini was then forced to save a Jiminez header as Galaxy threatened to take the lead.
Spurs suffered another blow as Van der Vaart’s injury issues struck again, with the Dutchman limping off with what appeared to be a groin injury just 35 minutes into his first appearance under Villas-Boas.
However, the Lilywhites now have the perfect replacement in their �8million man Sigurdsson, and the Iceland international promptly moved forward to adopt his preferred role behind the striker, with Jermaine Jenas entering the fray and partnering Livermore in the holding position.
Sigurdsson almost picked up his second assist moments later, whipping in a free kick which Defoe flicked into the grateful arms of Perk.
But Tottenham then got a big let-off at the other end as Keane sprung the offside trap again, haring into a gap between Bassong and Vertonghen but firing at Cudicini before sending the rebound wide from a narrower angle.
Villas-Boas was left with plenty to ponder at the interval – and he responded by withdrawing Bassong and introducing Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back, while also swapping Townsend for Aaron Lennon.
Defoe had a golden opportunity to restore Tottenham’s lead 10 minutes after the restart as he raced onto Younes Kaboul’s long ball over the top, went through one on one with Perk but slid his finish wide of the left-hand post.
Spurs should have had a penalty as Bale beat LA’s substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe to a loose ball in the box and was scythed down, but the referee amazingly waved away the appeals.
Moments later, the dangerous Bale raced outside his full-back and delivered a low ball across the box to Sigurdsson, who arrived unmarked, opened his body up and seemed certain to score - but placed the ball wide from 10 yards.
Villas-Boas rang the changes in the closing stages, withdrawing tired legs and introducing Harry Kane, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, David Bentley and Tom Carroll – and Walker limped off with a concerning ankle injury, necessitating the introduction of Kyle Naughton.
With Galaxy also rotating their side throughout the match, the game drifted aimlessly towards its conclusion.
Lennon nearly stole victory five minutes from time as Bentley’s cross was deflected into his path, but a dangerous 20-yard shot struck a defender and flew narrowly wide as honours ended even.
Spurs move on to Baltimore to face Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool on Saturday (6pm UK time).
Tottenham: Cudicini, Walker (Naughton 68), Kaboul (Dawson 66), Vertonghen, Bassong (Assou-Ekotto 45), Livermore (Huddlestone 73), Sigurdsson (Carroll 76), Townsend (Lennon 45), Van der Vaart (Jenas 36), Bale (Bentley 73), Defoe (Kane 66).
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