A moment of Gareth Bale inspiration carried Tottenham Hotspur to a 1-0 Premier League win over 10-man West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. Bale slammed an unstoppable 20-yarder to register his 11th league goal of the season, and ensure Spurs returned to North London with maximum points.
After a lively Albion first half, the game changed two minutes into the second period, when Mark Clattenburg showed Goran Popov a red card for spitting in the direction of Kyle Walker - after which point Spurs dominated completely.
An ankle injury to Jermain Defoe took the gloss off the victory. With Emmanuel Adebayor away on African Cup of Nations duty with Togo, Tottenham have no recognised strikers available.
Tottenham fans left manager Andre-Villas Boas in no doubt about their feelings - chanting, "You should have bought a striker!" following the club's failed pursuit of Brazilian international Leandro Damiao on deadline day.
The injury also appears set to rule Defoe out of the international friendly against Brazil on Wednesday.
Albion were without a striker of their own - Peter Odemwingie left out of the squad three days after his extraordinary appearance at Loftus Road ahead of a move the QPR that never was.
Steve Clarke's team had not won in their last seven games, but there was no sign of caution in his bold team selection, with Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long playing as out-and-out strikers designed to test Tottenham's high defensive line.
The move worked, but uncertain finishing let Albion down.
Early on, Lukaku flicked the ball on for Long whose first touch let him down and he failed to take the ball around the advancing Hugo Lloris.
Soon after, Lukaku tested Lloris with a 20-yarder, while Long also brought a decent save from the French keeper.
Time and again the home side hit direct passes for their strikers to chase, but Tottenham just about coped.
Spurs also favoured fast breaks as their preferred method of attack, with Bale and Aaron Lennon looking dangerous.
Popov's moment of madness in the 47th minute changed the game's entire character.
While his offence was not the most grievous, he clearly spat towards Walker - an obvious red card that cost West Bromwich Albion a possible three points.
Thereafter Spurs were the only team in it. The lively Holtby tested Foster, and while Albion got men behind the ball and did their best to disrupt Tottenham, it was little surprise to see the breakthrough.
On 67 minutes, Bale picked the ball up 25 yards out, darted past James Morrison and cracked a powerful shot that gave Foster no chance.
Despite the home fans' exhortation, there was no way back for WBA, particularly after Lukaku was sacrificed following Popov's red card.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham): While Bale shone going forward, Lloris was rock-solid at the back with a commanding display. He was especially good at dealing with set pieces. Foreign keepers, eh?
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster 7; Reid 6, McAuley 7, Olsson 6, Popov 4; Dorrans 7, Yacob 6, Morrison 6, Brunt 6; Long 7, Lukaku 7. Subs: Ridgewell 6, Rosenberg N/A, Fortuné N/A.
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 8; Walker 7, Dawson 7, Vertonghen 7, Assou-Ekotto 7; Dembele 6, Parker 6; Lennon 7, Bale 8, Dempsey 6; Defoe 5. Subs: Gallas 6, Sigurdsson N/A, Holtby 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- West Bromwich Albion
- Gareth Bale
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Hugo Lloris
- Jermain Defoe