On-fire Bale helps Tottenham edge thriller against West Ham

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Gareth Bale was once again the hero of the day as his brace helped Tottenham claim a dramatic 3-2 win over West Ham at Upton Park.

The Welshman, whose tally now stands at eight from his last six games for Tottenham, had the final say in a game which ebbed and flowed at a thrilling pace which ultimately saw the visiting fans heading home much the happier.

The 23 year-old got the scoring underway with just 13 minutes on the clock, before Andy Carroll equalised from the penalty spot following Scott Parker’s unwise lunge in the area.

The home side went 2-1 up in the second half thanks to some poor Tottenham defending and a fine Joe Cole finish, before Gylfi Sigurdsson’s scrambled effort set up a tense last 15 minutes, in which Bale won his personal duel with the magnificent Jussi Jaskelainen on the 90 minute mark.

The build-up to the game was dominated by one man, Bobby Moore, with West Ham paying a fitting tribute to their captain who passed away 20 years ago.

Inspired by Moore the crowd roared the Hammers on but the early action was scrappy. The sides exchanged early shots, but after ten minutes there was little action. Mohamed Diame, excellent throughout, tested Lloris, but Bale couldn’t say the same of Jaaskelainen.

Jarvis landed the first real shot of the game as he ran through from the left cutting inside before forcing Lloris into a smart save after 11 minutes, just after Diame tried his luck with an early sighter.

Before the game, Hammers boss Sam Allardyce insisted his side would not focus on Bale, but they would have done well to pay a passing interest in the Welshman as he opened the scoring after 13 minutes.

The ball fell into his path on the 18-yard line, and he duly accepted the gift handed to him by the West Ham defence by shifting left and firing past Jaaskelainen.

Neither team could quite get on top although West Ham, shorn of captain Kevin Nolan who limped off to be replaced by Matt Taylor, were making in-roads against a rattled Spurs backline, and soon enough the leveller came.

Andy Carroll got his second goal of the season against Spurs from the penalty spot after Parker, booed by some sections of the crowd early on, lunged at the on-loan Liverpool man, who confidently placed his shot past Lloris.

Just before the equaliser, Bale showed the side of his game which still requires work, shooting weakly at Jaaskelainen when he had two men to his left unmarked on the break.

West Ham appeared to revelling in the atmosphere and were making life uncomfortable for Spurs. With half-time looming Jarvis’ shot was blocked by Walker when the former Wolves man looked likely to send his side into the break 2-1 up.

Tottenham almost re-took the lead through Steven Caulker, only for Jaaskelainen to deny him with a wonderful save; the first of many. Bale ended the half with a poor free-kick which seemed to sum up Tottenham’s first half efforts.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side emerged for the second half fired up and seemingly intent on going toe to toe with their London rivals.

First Vertonghen almost forced an unfortunate own goal before Jaaskelainen pulled off another great save from the head of Caulker.

West Ham responded to that by building up a head of steam of their own, peppering Lloris in the Tottenham goal from out wide.

West Ham’s second came amidst perhaps Tottenham’s best spell of the match. Sigurdsson, on for the anonymous Lewis Holtby, forced a sublime save from Jaaskelainen, who somehow thwarted Adebayor when he seemed destined to score. A finer double save it is hard to imagine.

Cole struck soon after that, collecting Joey O’Brien’s lofted pass and breaking Tottenham’s defensive line, before taking his time and placing his shot past Lloris after 57 minutes.

Despite being arguably the better team, West Ham still had Jaaskelainen for keeping them ahead as he saved from Caulker’s header once more before pulling off a sublime save from Bale’s long-range dipping shot after the hour mark.

Matt Taylor should have done better when one-on-one with Lloris at the other end but the Frenchman did well to smother the danger, and Spurs pressed forward for the equaliser with time running out.

Tottenham finally took their chance to get back on level terms as Sigurdsson, bright after coming off the bench, prodded home with little more than 15 minutes remaining after Bale’s delivery free-kick bounced around the area.

Tottenham smelled blood and went for the kill. Parker’s shot from Lennon’s pull-back forced Jaaskelainen into action again, before Adebayor almost headed Spurs in front with less than ten minutes to go.

The visitors threw caution to the wind as they piled forward looking for the winner, and it finally came in impetuously brilliant fashion with time fast running out.

Picking up and driving at the heart of West Ham’s defence, seemingly in the knowledge that if the game was to be won he would have to do something, Bale went down under a heavy challenge, picked up the ball after getting to his feet, and slammed a simply sensational shot past man-of-the-match Jaaskelainen.

The Spurs bench erupted with joy as did the travelling support as Bale continues to prop up his side’s charge for Champions League qualification.

For West Ham and their raucous crown, they headed home at least comforted by the fact they had lost a match fit for their regal hero who still has a profound effect on life in east London 20 years on.

For Tottenham, the win moved them two points clear of Chelsea in third and four clear of Arsenal who they face next week at White Hart Lane. 

Spurs may have to say goodbye to their star man in the summer amidst interest from Real Madrid, but not before he delivers them to the Champions League, they hope.

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Tottenham Hotspur
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