Match Report: Gareth Bale double extends Tottenham’s run but lessens the chances of him staying
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Newcastle United 1: Villas-Boas faces battle to keep ‘inspirational’ player who has scored five in four games in 10 days
Somewhere at the Bernabeu, an analyst’s computer blinked. The price for Gareth Bale had increased, again. Real Madrid’s profit margin from any sale of Cristiano Ronaldo shrank accordingly. In today’s technological world, the price of talent can be calculated instantly, and with forbidding accuracy.
The chances of Tottenham resisting overtures from men who tend to get what they want were reduced by another match-winning performance from a fresh-faced footballer who looks as if he should be harrowing the fields for spring. The eternal optimists who chanted Bale “just wants to play for Spurs” should enjoy him while they can.
His two goals settled a contest of intelligence and pace that also did credit to Newcastle’s transfer-fuelled resurgence. Bale has now scored five times in four matches over 10 days. Where Tottenham would be without him is a worry for manager Andre Villas-Boas, and a dilemma for Daniel Levy, his commercially driven chairman.
Bale could have scored five, yet seemed indifferent to the commotion. He spoke with humility, saying that “I just work hard, I guess”. He put everything in the context of his team, which has extended its unbeaten run to 11 Premier League games. He began wide on the left, flourished through the middle in the second half, and left Villas-Boas fighting a rearguard action.
“Most teams have to hang on to their best players” he argued with a world-weary sigh. “Teams depend on great organisation, but also on great individuals who are able to express themselves. Barcelona losing Messi would be a disaster. Madrid losing Ronaldo would be a disaster...”
And Bale? The question hung, unasked yet unavoidable.
“Gareth is enjoying his football,” Villas-Boas continued. “He is extremely motivated, creating for the team and getting a buzz out of his goalscoring skills. That is an inspiration.
“We can’t continue this debate every time he does well, but there are no release clauses in English football. It is very difficult to negotiate with Tottenham Hotspur.”
We are all Europeans now. While Spurs are vulnerable to the Spanish super clubs and have fallen for a German, Lewis Holtby, who would have been an English icon but for an accident of birth, Newcastle are as Gallic as a Gauloises, and are on the right lines. Mike Ashley, captured on Twitter having a drink with travelling fans before kick-off, has won back the Toon Army’s affections.
The indolence of Emmanuel Adebayor, whose late return to Tottenham five days after Togo’s elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations suggested he had taken a pedalo back from South Africa, was a blessing in disguise. No striker? No worries. Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe had contributed only a goal apiece in the previous 10 League games and Tottenham committed themselves to a system which rewarded speed, fluidity and flexibility. Impressing White Hart Lane is a tough gig. Danny Blanchflower speaks from the grave in letters six feet high. The placards which proclaim “The Game is about Glory” are a permanent statement of intent. Bale is their main squeeze, but the locals have also taken to Holtby like a love-struck teenager.
Tottenham’s marketing department have ensured his shirt, a Beckhamesque 23, dominates the club shop. The brief burst of booing which greeted his replacement by Adebayor midway through the second half will become more than a lover’s tiff if it is repeated. Holtby’s intelligence, versatility and work ethic gives Bale freedom. It was significant Tottenham improved markedly when Holtby worked from the left and allowed the Welshman to go where his instincts dictated.
Bale’s technique is as sumptuous as his prospects. He gave Tottenham a fifth-minute lead with a deceptively languid swing of his left boot. The 25-yard free-kick, awarded for a foul on Clint Dempsey, arched over a static wall, dipped and sped with one bounce into the bottom corner.
Newcastle, inspired from midfield by Yohan Cabaye and given additional defensive stability by Steven Taylor, were resilient. They deserved their 26th-minute equaliser, a Yoan Gouffran shot from just inside the penalty area which deflected in off Michael Dawson’s back. Gouffran was subsequently sent to hospital for X-rays on his right shin, inadvertently struck by a follow through from Kyle Walker’s attempted clearance. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew reported that the club doctor was “50-50” over whether it was broken.
The blow was compounded 13 minutes from the end when Fabricio Coloccini’s rash challenge allowed Bale to bound clear from just inside the Newcastle half. He took the ball in his stride and tucked a shot through the legs of goalkeeper Tim Krul with his third touch. Over to you Mr Levy.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Naughton (Assou-Ekotto, 73); Parker, Dembele (Livermore, 90); Lennon, Holtby (Adebayor, 68), Bale; Dempsey.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1) Krul; Debuchy, Taylor, Coloccini, Santon; Perch (Tiote, 81) Cabaye; Gutierrez (Shola Ameobi, 85), Sissoko, Gouffran (Marveaux, 59); Cisse.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of Match: Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Match Rating: 7/10
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