Match Report: Gareth Bale returns to haunt Southampton as Tottenham Hotspur build head of steam

Southampton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

St Mary's

The sleepless nights are clearly not affecting Gareth Bale yet, the new father celebrating his return from paternity leave today with a goal that helped lift Tottenham into the Champions League places for the first time this season. With Clint Dempsey doubling the lead, Spurs were able to withstand a second-half Southampton rally given impetus by Jay Rodriquez's third goal for the club since his £7m arrival.

Bale was given last week off after his partner gave birth to a girl but was delighted to return in time to make his first appearance at Southampton since leaving the club in 2007. Saints were less pleased to see him after his 11th-minute goal sent them towards their seventh defeat in nine games.

Nigel Adkins insisted he is "confident" he will get time from the board to turn his team's form around, but there are signs that the tough start to the campaign has taken its toll on his players. The worrying aspect of the first half for Southampton fans was not the gulf in quality, that was inevitable, but Tottenham's greater intensity despite their midweek exertions in the Europa League.

Against the Manchester clubs at the start of the season Saints had taken the game to their exalted opponents. Then, however, they were still buoyed by back-to-back promotions. That confidence has drained away as the goals have rattled in against them and they played the first 45 minutes as if the prime aim was to keep the score down. Spurs were allowed to pass the ball at will as the home team sat off. Tom Huddlestone barely faced a tackle in that period and dictated play without breaking into a sweat.

Sandro had been denied by Artur Boruc, and Jermain Defoe spurned a fine opportunity created by Kyle Walker, when Huddlestone was given time and space to pick a pass 30 yards out. He floated in a deep cross and Bale surged past Nathaniel Clyne to head back across goal inside the far post. The former Southampton academy boy's celebration was low-key. "I've waited five-and-a-half years to come back and it was a bit emotional scoring, but the main thing was to come here and do a job," said Bale. "I had been here since I was nine years old and my celebrations were muted out of respect."

Six minutes from the break Dempsey scored the goal which appeared both to kill the game and sum it up. Aaron Lennon drove unchallenged from midfield before finding Defoe with a clever reverse pass. Defoe chipped over Boruc but Jose Fonte looked about to hack the ball away only to lose his footing, he scuffed his clearance and Dempsey prodded the ball in.

At half-time Adkins changed Saints' shape, playing Adam Lallana behind Rickie Lambert in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He also told his players to up the tempo and reiterated his pre-match command that they "get up and get at them." This time his players took heed.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Saints' positive intent was soon evident with Brad Friedel brought into action for the first time to save a Jason Puncheon volley. They continued to press and were rewarded midway through the half. Fox took a corner conceded to prevent Maya Yoshida scoring, his delivery was met by Fonte and, though Friedel parried his flick, Rodriguez lashed in the rebound.

There was a time when Tottenham would have crumbled but, while it was tense enough for Villas-Boas to resume his famous crouch in the final minutes, his players' attitude was epitomised by Sandro who was knocked the ground by the force of a Morgan Schneiderlin shot he blocked. Lambert also had a goalbound effort blocked and Rodriguez shot wide. The importance of the victory to Villas-Boas was evident as he sent his players over to the away support, where they threw their shirts into the crowd. "I told them I will pay them for the shirts," said the manager who dedicated the victory to Alex Carroll, one of the club's administrative staff who lost his mother to cancer this week.

For Southampton there were further problems as it emerged that Boruc had marked his home debut with an altercation with his own supporters.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
News
A girl plays on a Sony 'PS Vita' portable games console
news
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines