Where there's life there's hope. The presence of Fabrice Muamba, muffled against the spring chill in a huge Puffa jacket on the pitch last night, and occasionally leaping from his seat and placing hands to his face as he urged his side on, revealed that much.
But while his is the significant recovery that football could give thanks for, the one Bolton Wanderers now hope for looks as if it might take them right to the precipice and, quite possibly, beyond. Their defending lacked top-flight quality last night; the profiteers were a Tottenham side whose manager, released from the ifs and buts of England, has suddenly rediscovered the elixir of success which had his side being talked of as potential champions this winter.
Harry Redknapp could find some consolation in the Football Association's decision-making. With only Aston Villa and Fulham to come for Spurs and momentum restored, fourth place is theirs to lose.
Luka Modric exposed the gulf in class last night when, in a moment of quite exquisite technical skill, he took Rafael van der Vaart's corner on his chest, allowed the ball a bounce and unravelled a dipping, swerving shot into the top righthand corner.
From somewhere, Bolton found an equaliser, five minutes after the break, when David Ngog's backheel found Nigel Reo-Coker in space to place the ball home. The flow was only briefly stemmed. No sooner had an atmosphere materialised than Redknapp's men were ahead again and then, within two minutes, out of sight.
Bale engineered their second, breaking forward down the left and levelling the ball which Mark Davies, failing to track his man, allowed Van der Vaart a clear run at converting. Then Spurs repeated the trick on the opposite flank, Modric engineering a pass which found Lennon. Adebayor converted the cross. Bale slid the Togolese through to round Bogdan for the fourth.
It was only Redknapp's second win at the Reebok and he could reflect last night on a goal difference 13 better than that of Newcastle, whose remaining fixtures, against Manchester City and Everton, are more unenviable.
Muamba said he has much work to do. "I've still got about six or seven boxes to go through of well-wishers' cards and I'm grateful for that," he said. "The support I got is overwhelming. It stays in my mind every single day. This is keeping me going every single day."
Bolton have to roll their sleeves up too. They need more of their talisman's fight.
- More about:
- Bolton Wanderers
- Gareth Bale
- Harry Redknapp
- Premier League
- Tottenham Hotspur