Swansea City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2 match report: Gareth Bale puts Spurs back on course for Europe
Another outstanding display from the Welshman is too much for
the liberty stadium
Sunday 31 March 2013
Is there anything Gareth Bale cannot do? Not only did the Welshman produce a superb attacking performance here with one wonderful first-half goal as well as setting up Jan Vertonghen's opener, the 23‑year-old also showed he can be a defender of the highest order.
After Michu halved the deficit with a 70th-minute header, Spurs were on the back foot with memories fresh from two successive League defeats.
But Bale's stoppage-time block on his old pal and Swansea wideman Nathan Dyer sealed a valuable three points for Tottenham in their pursuit of Champions' League football next season.
No wonder Andre Villas-Boas, Bale's club manager, hailed his prized asset as "world class" after this latest five-star showing.
"Gareth was the difference between the teams," Villas-Boas said. "For a team to do well it is difficult to single out any individual, but Bale did ever so well.
"Both offensively and defensively he is a world-class player. He showed that with the block at the end to prevent Swansea from drawing the game."
The Swansea manager, Michael Laudrup, also believed that man-of-the-match Bale was the difference between the sides. "There are a lot of very good players in the Premier League – and then there are the few special ones like him," he said.
"He can score goals and win games from nothing. His goal against us was fantastic. There is nothing you can do to legislate against a strike like his."
The victory lifted Spurs to third in the Premier League table after Chelsea's shock defeat at Southampton and ended talk of them fading away after their recent wobble which included losses to Liverpool and Fulham.
Yet Villas-Boas insisted his men are up for the fight to join Europe's elite again after Chelsea ruined last season's dreams by winning the Champions League in Munich. In fact he believes that disappointment is actually acting as a catalyst and driving his team on in the final furlong of the season.
Villas-Boas added: "I'm pleased we are back on track. The win was extremely important for us, particularly at a difficult ground against a team who plays well. It was never going to be easy.
"At half-time we spoke about getting the third goal to put the game beyond any doubt. We couldn't and Swansea did ever so well to come back into the game.
"It was a decisive moment for us to win because it showed the determination of the team and the winning mentality which allowed us to hold on to a great away win and put us back into third position.
"I am surrounded by top-quality players with ambition. What happened last season and the fact these players weren't present in the Champions' League, even though they deserved to be because of their League position, gives them great ambition to achieve it this season.
"It gives me and my staff great belief. We showed a winning mentality to take this game through to the end and hold on for three points.
"It's been a good day, but it shifts very quickly. We were in that position last week and it has changed again this week. With the teams so close everyone has to make sure they get the points or one team gets one over you.
"This victory means nothing. If it is to mean something then we have to be competent and try to gather the most amount of points. We still have important fixtures against Man City, Chelsea and Everton who are playing for the same objectives."
What a difference five days makes, because if Bale had produced the same level of display in south Wales on Tuesday night, there is little doubt that Wales's World Cup dreams would still be well and truly alive heading into the autumn.
Chris Coleman's men saw their qualification hopes dashed following a late double raid by Croatia, yet, the turning point of that Group A contest came in the 40th minute when Bale missed a glorious chance that most people would have put their house on that he would have converted.
Just days later, Bale was back at the Liberty Stadium on club duty and the contrast in his finishing was staggering, culminating in his wonderful 21st-minute strike which left the Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm stranded.
The Welshman collected Vertonghen's forward pass and with instant control, arrowed a stunning left-footed shot beyond the helpless Dutchman.
It was the sort of goal you see from a certain Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the white shirt of Real Madrid and it kept Tottenham driving towards the Champions' League – where a player of Bale's calibre belongs.
By that point, the irrepressible Welshman had already set up Vertonghen's seventh-minute opener, and although Michu grabbed his 20th goal of an excellent season from Ki Sung-Yueng's corner, Bale's contribution proved the difference. And no doubt that won't be the last time such a statement is made this season.
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