Not that there was ever any serious doubt, but Gareth Bale proved yesterday that he can perform dazzlingly against mid-table Premier League teams as well as Champions' League winners. After two low-key displays against Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland, the Wales winger was as dominating against Blackburn Rovers as he had been in Tottenham's 3-1 victory over Internazionale 11 days previously.
Not only did he maraud down the left to such effect that Michel Salgado, his marker, was substitutedto spare him further punishment before half-time, but he also opened the scoring with a header that many centre-forwards would have been proud of.
Bale then provided the cross that allowed Roman Pavlyuchenko to atone for an earlier penalty miss, and made it 4-0 himself with a shot from eight yards. The wonder was that he was not involved in Tottenham's third, an overdue first League goal of the season for Peter Crouch.
It was Tottenham's first Premier League victory in five games, since their 2-1 win at Fulham on 16 October, and only their third at White Hart Lane this season. After being booed off after the 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland on Tuesday, Harry Redknapp's men will face a tricky run of games against teams including Arsenal, Werder Bremen, Liverpool and Chelsea in a far more positive frame of mind.
"We let ourselves down at Bolton, although we played well enough against Sunderland, but it is a tough league and we have to improve in games after European nights," Joe Jordan, the Tottenham assistant manager, said. "We want to get into the top four again and to do that we have to show more consistency."
Blackburn, though, could have scored more than twice despite beginning the afternoon with very defensive-looking 5-4-1 formation that invited Tottenham to attack – and Bale, in particular, was happy to oblige. He had already given Salgadoa torrid 15 minutes when he showed a previously unsuspected power in the air, charging to the near post to meet Rafael van der Vaart's corner from the right and head firmly past Paul Robinson's left hand.
Pavlyuchenko missed two opportunities to put the game beyond Blackburn's reach before half-time. After 28 minutes he intercepted Phil Jones' poor backpass but curled an ambitious shot over the crossbar, then knocked a penalty wide after Andre Marriner ruled that Robinson had fouled Crouch.
Spurs nearly paid for the miss when Morten Gamst Pedersen failed to hit the target with a header from six yards and then Nikola Kalinic turned Younes Kaboul and fired in a shot that Heurelho Gomes did well to beat away. Almost immediately, Tottenham took the ball to the other end, where Pavlyuchenko made up for his earlier errors. This time Bale was the creator, charging past Pascal Chimbonda – who had replaced Salgado in the firing line – and crossing for the unmarked Russian to head home.
Blackburn continued to press, and William Gallas cleared a shot by Pedersen off the line, while El-Hadji Diouf brought a fine leaping save from Gomes. But once again, Tottenham quelled any notions of a comeback. Van der Vaart's pass invited Pavlyuchenko to shoot, and Robinson did well to get down to his left to parry. But Gaël Givet did less well, dawdling over a chance to clear and allowing Crouch to poke the ball home. "That summed us up defensively today," Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager, said. "As a defensive unit we were diabolical. As an attacking unit, very exciting, but it's no good gifting the opposition four goals before you start putting the ball in the back of the net."
Bale scuffed home the fourth before Rovers got some reward for their contribution to an entertaining game. David Dunn drove low past Gomes from 18 yards and, after Kaboul had kicked Diouf's low shot off the goalline, Tottenham failed to clear a long ball and Givet made it 4-2.
"At 4-0 up we failed to pick up second balls, but I don't think it took away from the result or the football we played," Jordan said.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Bale
Match rating: 9/10