London: Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale showed absent strikers how it was done by blasting in a 67th-minute winner in a 1-0 Premier League success at 10-man West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The victory for fourth-placed Spurs, which came despite their only available forward Jermain Defoe limping off in the first half, put them a point behind Chelsea in third after Rafael Benitez’s side lost 3-2 at Newcastle United on Saturday.
The Londoners were helped by West Brom’s Macedonia defender Goran Popov being sent off after 48 minutes for spitting at Kyle Walker but Spurs deserved the win because of Welshman Bale’s continued heroics.
The 23-year-old’s 13th goal in all competitions this term, following another cracker in the 1-1 draw with Norwich City in midweek, summed up all his attributes as he evaded a challenge on the edge of the box and let fly with a swerving strike.
With Emmanuel Adebayor away at the African Nations Cup, Spurs’ over reliance on out-of-form Defoe was keenly felt by supporters but Bale is digging them out of holes as a Champions League spot looks more and more a possibility.
Ninth-placed West Brom had decent chances through Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku but perhaps missed fellow forward Peter Odemwingie, dropped after turning up at Queens Park Rangers without permission on transfer deadline day as he tried to force through a move.
Second-placed Manchester City host Liverpool, in seventh, later (1600 GMT) hoping to close the 10-point gap on leaders Manchester United, who won 1-0 at Fulham on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Andre Villas-Boas has said Tottenham Hotspur were extremely close to signing Leandro Damiao from Internacional in Brazil on transfer deadline day and that “a little more time probably would have helped” to conclude the deal. The Tottenham manager now thinks that the club’s long-running pursuit of the Brazil centre-forward is over and there is no chance of a successful move for him in the summer.
Tottenham’s position over the latest push for Damiao was clear. They wanted him and they and Inter held amicable talks, which continued on Thursday, but an agreement could not be reached. Sources close to Inter say that Tottenham offered 13m whereas the London club say that Inter were simply not prepared to sell in January, as evidenced by their unrealistic valuation of the player, who is part owned by Atletico Ibirama.
Villas-Boas was in diplomatic mood but his comments raise the question as to why Tottenham tend to leave it so late to close difficult transfers. The club failed in an 11th-hour attempt to sign the midfielder Joao Moutinho from Porto in last summer’s window, another player who has third-party ownership issues. Villas-Boas had said that he would have liked fresh blood up front, given his switch to a 4-4-2 formation and the fact that his squad has only two specialist senior strikers Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, who is currently at the Africa Cup of Nations with Togo. There had also been the sense that Tottenham would have benefited from a mid-season statement signing to fire their challenge for a Champions League finish.
“Things were very, very close, almost to the point of being agreed,” Villas-Boas said, on the move for Damiao. “I think it’s a question of a little more time, probably, that would have helped. There was a third-party with Atltico, the club who own 30%; that wasn’t a problem. On the whole dealings of the whole agreement with all the parties, we needed more time. It was not specifically one party’s fault.”