Gareth Bale delivers dream display to give Tottenham hope for season run-in

Dan Kilpatrick
·3-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

Gareth Bale announced his second coming in English football with an outstanding performance and two goals as Tottenham thrashed Burnley 4-0 to ease the pressure on Jose Mourinho.

Making only his third League start of the season, it took Bale just 67 seconds to justify his inclusion, poking home Heung-min Son’s cross from six yards after beating the offside trap.

For the Wales forward, it was the start of a performance that felt like confirmation he has finally hit his stride back in the Premier League.

He was at the heart of the best Spurs display since November and for the first time this season Harry Kane and Son were outshone by a teammate in the final third.

Bale scored his second and Spurs’ fourth after the break with a trademark curling finish off the far post. Just like on Wednesday night against Wolfsberger here, it felt inevitable he would find the back of the net as soon as Son played him in.

AP
AP

The 31-year-old was also involved in the other two goals, creating Kane’s deflected strike with a brilliant 50-yard raking pass to the England captain and switching the play to Sergio Reguilon before the Spaniard crossed for Lucas Moura to make it 3-0.

Bale has previously shown glimpses of his quality as both as poacher and playmaker since returning to Spurs, so equally encouraging was the moment in the first half when he rolled back the years to skin Charlie Taylor with a push-and-run dart down the right flank, proving that he can still turn on the afterburners.

He could have finished with at least one more goal, blazing over from a quick counter-attack.

He was replaced after 70 minutes – to save him for Thursday’s game against Fulham – after the type of display that Spurs fans would have dreamed of when he returned to the club in October.

With four consecutive standout performances, Bale’s season has really turned a corner, which should give Spurs optimism that he can be at the heart of an upturn in the latter part of the campaign.

Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Spurs blitz Burnley

Any win would have felt significant for Spurs and Mourinho after five defeats from six League matches which had increased the pressure on the manager and left them well adrift of the top four.

But the manner of the victory felt particularly pleasing, as the hosts played with the kind of confidence that they have not shown in months.

Bale, Kane and Tanguy Ndombele, especially, were enjoying themselves, switching the play with a succession of gorgeous passes which left the Clarets chasing shadows.

Mourinho’s side could easily have finished the game with seven or eight goals, with Nick Pope to thank for keeping the score vaguely respectable.

And yet their approach was not without risks and they gave up chances to Burnley, who finished the match with 10 shots of their own. A better side might have scored one or two of their own.

Ultimately, the performance was confirmation that against lesser sides like Burnley, attack is surely the best form of defence for Mourinho’s Spurs.

It should therefore be a source of frustration that they spent so many matches trying to eke out 1-0 wins this season when they are capable of winning matches by half-time, as they did here.

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

Sanchez much improved

The focus will inevitably be on Spurs’ attacking and Bale but their much-criticised defence also improved, particularly Davinson Sanchez.

The Colombian has been a walking disaster area in recent League games but put in a commanding and assured display against the Clarets.

He put off Jay Rodriguez with a astute slide in the first half and blocked Matej Vydra’s shot in the second. In between were a succession of important clearing headers and tackles.

It felt no coincidence that Sanchez was alongside Toby Alderweireld rather than Eric Dier ands also that he was not facing wave after wave of attack, with Spurs more front foot than in previous matches.

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