Michael Dawson thought Tottenham had clinched fourth place after Gareth Bale wonder goal

Victory over Sunderland not enough for Spurs

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The Independent Football

Tottenham captain Michael Dawson admitted he thought Gareth Bale's last-gasp winner against Sunderland had put them into next season's Champions League.

Spurs needed a win at White Hart Lane and for arch rivals Arsenal to drop points away to Newcastle to snatch fourth place away from the Gunners.

And for a few moments it seemed to Dawson as though Spurs had done just that when Bale found the top corner of Simon Mignolet's with a stunning 25-yard drive in the 90th minute.

Dawson had assumed that celebrations among sections of Spurs supporters earlier on had meant Arsenal, who had taken a 52nd-minute lead at Newcastle through Laurent Koscielny, were no longer winning at St James' Park.

However, Arsenal had not conceded and their 1-0 win in the north meant Spurs' victory by the same margin was only enough to earn Andre Villas-Boas' men fifth place.

Dawson felt it was going to be a different story following Bale's latest wonder strike though, telling Sky Sports News: "Yeah, I thought that was it (Spurs were in top four) because of the (earlier) celebrations around the ground from our fans.

"I didn't hear anything else, then towards the end after Gaz scored I sort of picked things up that the fans weren't as lively as we would've liked if we'd been in the top four, and you sort of got that feeling towards the end of the game."

Manager Andre Villas-Boas does not believe missing out on Champions League football will mean Spurs will struggle to keep hold of Bale and their other leading players for next season.

He said: "No, I don't think so. This has been an ongoing question. We have to keep our ambitions high, hold on to our best players.

"For us to make it better in the future we have to hold on to the best. Today there was another great moment of individual brilliance although the squad in the second half was very, very strong, pushing for a winner."

Villas-Boas felt it might have been a different story today if Spurs had been awarded a penalty in the 21st minute when Bale went to ground inside the box under a challenge from Sebastian Larsson.

Instead of winning a spot-kick though, Bale was once again booked for diving.

Villas-Boas said: "It's very, very disappointing because a penalty doesn't only change the running of this game but changes the running of the other game (Arsenal match) too."

Despite missing out on a top-four finish, Spurs finished with a 72-point haul, which was a club record in the Premier League era.

Looking back on the season as a whole, Villas-Boas said: "I think it was very good, obviously to manage so many points and not make it means the level has come up and serves as a reference for next season.

"We did better than last season in terms of points but not in terms of qualification and means that others have pushed on a level and next year we have to look at this year's reference and improve our level once more.

"So it's a good lesson to take into next season, (although) it's a pity we didn't get in there this year as it would normally be enough to qualify."

The Portuguese remains optimistic they can push on next season, saying: ""Yeah I think so, we've pushed two clubs who normally should be going for titles and we're not far away from them so this shows how good our season was. We want to be in their position in the future."