Belfast Telegraph

Bale leading Spurs' assault on fourth place

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Blackburn 1

There was a time when picking Gareth Bale meant Tottenham hotspur would not win a Premier League match.

Word of this fact was not restricted to north London. In fact it even reached Old Trafford, where Sir Alex Ferguson is never reluctant to use a statistic or two to strengthen his hold over an old foe.

Bale joined Spurs from Southampton for £5m in May 2007, aged only 17, and when Harry Redknapp became manager in October 2008 it was a reunion of sorts, for Bale had been a prominent youth team player during Redknapp's short time at Saints.

But Bale's start to life in the Premier League was not a happy one as the games mounted up with the left-back playing but never finishing on the winning side in the league. Then came the 5-0 victory over Burnley at White Lane last September, which was routine enough except for Bale. It had taken just over two seasons for him to get his first league win in a Spurs shirt.

Talking after seeing Bale playing a vibrant part in Spurs retaining fourth place and the last Champions League position, Redknapp said: "He's on a march now and he is improving. He's a lot tougher than he was.

"Alex Ferguson said to me last year, 'You can't pick him. You're mad!' But now he looks fantastic, an amazing left-sided player."

He was certainly on the march down the left flank against Rovers. Spurs' injuries meant a reshuffle with Bale on the left wing and he attacked Michel Salgado relentlessly.

The former Spain and Real Madrid right-back had a torrid afternoon but he also praised Bale, saying: "He is a good player with a good future, and he's playing for a top team so he has a chance to be very good in the future."

Having seen those crosses not converted, Bale went for goal himself only to be tripped by Salgado, but no penalty was given by Howard Webb, who had a poor game. Redknapp feels cursed whenever he officiates and Sam Allardyce felt similarly aggrieved when a penalty was not given for a foul on David Dunn and when the referee chalked off a fine strike by Nikola Kalinic in the penultimate minute after an accidental handball.

Jermain Defoe had given Spurs the lead on half-time and finally Bale's efforts were rewarded when Roman Pavlyuchenko tapped in his cross two minutes from time for his eighth goal in six games. It was the Russian's second goal of the day, after earlier smashing the ball under Jason Brown, who came on when Paul Robinson hobbled off with a torn calf muscle.

Chris Samba's header was small consolation for Allardyce, who berated his team for their slack defending. He thinks fewer than 40 points will be enough to stay up – Rovers have 34 – but it could be a grim last two months for the Blackburn manager. Spurs have higher ambitions on their mind.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar, Palacios, Modric (Gudjohnsen, 89), Bale; Defoe (Crouch, 82), Pavlyuchenko Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Kaboul, Rose, Walker, Livermore.

Blackburn Rovers (4-1-4-1): Robinson (Brown, 26); Salgado, Samba, Givet (Di Santo, 74), Chimbonda; Nzonzi; Olsson, Dunn, Pedersen, Emerton (Andrews, 62); Kalinic. Substitutes not used: Roberts, Diouf, Basturk, Hoilett.

Referee: H Webb (Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Bale

Source: Independent

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