Treatment of Gareth Bale 'unfair' says Andre Villas-Boas after Tottenham winger is booked yet again for diving

Welshman appeared to go down easily under Craig Gardner's challenge

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas was quick to defend Gareth Bale after the Wales winger was again booked for diving in Saturday's 2-1 win at Sunderland.

The 23-year-old was yellow-carded by referee Martin Atkinson nine minutes from time after going down under Craig Gardner's challenge, and will miss tomorrow's clash with Reading as a result of his fifth domestic caution.

Villas Boas admitted some of the player's previous bookings had been warranted but insisted he had been hard done to on Wearside.

"It's difficult for the referees - there's no question about it. But today was a big mistake," the Portuguese said after the game.

"Sometimes we have to give a little bit of comfort and credit to the player because he is being chased now and it's a little bit unfair what he is going through. It's just a consequence of his pace, his ability, his skill."

Manchester United retained their seven-point lead at the Barclays Premier League summit thanks to a 2-0 win over West Brom at Old Trafford.

United left-back Patrice Evra believes his team have defended better this season than they did last even though Saturday's clean sheet was only their fourth in the league this term.

"The confidence of keeping a clean sheet is good," the Frenchman said. "I am a defender. I don't like to concede goals. But I am more bothered about winning games and I know when we have a big game the defence will be strong.

"Maybe it sounds bizarre but I feel we were weaker defensively last year even if this season we have conceded more goals."

Second-placed Manchester City stayed in touch by edging Norwich 4-3 at Carrow Road despite the dismissal of midfielder Samir Nasri for pushing his head into Canaries defender Sebastien Bassong.

"We have won two games now when we had only 10 players, also at West Brom, and that should say we are a strong team," City boss Roberto Mancini said. "The season is long, and we still have a chance."

Theo Walcott netted a hat-trick as Arsenal emerged 7-3 winners in a remarkable encounter with Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium in the late kick-off.

Aston Villa's miserable recent run continued with a 3-0 loss at home to Wigan, meaning Paul Lambert's side have conceded 15 goals without reply in their last three games.

Lambert called for a united front after the game, saying: "All we can do is do our very best for this football club. The fans will go away hurt like everybody else - so will we. I know that for a fact. But we have to stick together. That's important."

Villa would have fallen into the bottom three were it not for a superb comeback from 10-man Stoke. The Potters trailed 3-1 at home to Southampton and lost Steven Nzonzi to a red card, but nicked a point thanks to Cameron Jerome's stoppage-time strike.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Swansea's impressive campaign continued with a 2-1 win at Fulham while Reading boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 triumph over West Ham.

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific