Belfast Telegraph

Gareth Bale keeps Tottenham Hotspur in title hunt

Sam Wallace

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Wigan Athletic: As a manager who is not given to leaping about and hugging assistants in moments of triumph, Harry Redknapp was unusually demonstrative in his celebrations last night.

When the goals went in he ran a few paces down the touchline, he punched the air and he applauded his own supporters. And this was only a home win against Wigan Athletic.

After seven days in Southwark Crown Court, Redknapp was back in the place he knows best last night and he was feeling the love from the Tottenham support. This was his first appearance at White Hart Lane since his trial for tax evasion began and the warmth towards him seemed all the greater. For his part he seemed more responsive. The rest he left to Gareth Bale.

The Spurs winger scored a goal in either half and Luka Modric the other as Spurs overpowered Wigan with considerable ease. Redknapp has doubtless heard all the jokes about the importance of Bale - they really do not bear repeating - but last night the touch and composure of the club’s marquee name made all the difference.

For Redknapp, who ended the day with a flurry of activity in the transfer market, it was the perfect antidote to all those long hours in court. “I kept dancing around like a two-year-old,” he said. “I thought ‘Where have I found all this energy from?’ It was nice to get on my feet.”

He sold Roman Pavlyuchenko to Lokomotiv Moscow, although he could not be certain that was the club, for “decent money”. Sebastian Bassong went to Wolves on loan. Louis Saha has signed for Spurs until the end of the season with an option for another year and Ryan Nelsen will also join from Blackburn until the end of the season. A late move for Juventus’ Milos Krasic collapsed however Steven Pienaar will still go on loan to Everton.

Three points, two new players, two malcontents shifted out and ground made up on the leaders Manchester City who lost at Goodison Park. Redknapp may be back in court six tomorrow but at least he will have a spring in his step.

The only blight on the night was a calf strain for Rafael Van der Vaart which necessitated his withdrawal after half an hour and is a worry for Redknapp. William Gallas is out “long-term”, Redknapp said, with an injury in the same area. Kyle Walker (groin) and Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring) are also concerns for Monday’s game against Liverpool.

That aside, it was something of a stroll for Spurs - especially in the first half – when Wigan were particularly poor. Their manager Roberto Martinez described the first half as not “anywhere near good enough where we should be at this stage of the season” and bottom of the table with 15 games to go they really do have a task ahead of them.

Martinez’s side were better in the second half and scored through a deflected shot from substitute James McArthur in the 81 st minute of the game, his first for the club. Martinez said that referee Lee Probert should have dismissed the Spurs left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto for a tackle on Franco Di Santo towards the end of the game. “It was a red card,” he said. “We were very fortunate because Franco escaped the tackle with minor injury and I’ve seen broken legs from that.”

Otherwise his main complaint was that deadline day coinciding with Premier League matches had affected the preparation with his team, in particular Hugo Rodallega. The striker had been linked with a move to Spurs and was left on the bench by Martinez for last night’s game. “It becomes a bit of a circus,” Martinez said.

“One of my players was in the middle of that speculation and it’s not the right way to approach one of the most important games for this football club. An individual’s career should be second to that of the football club. I don’t think it’s the right thing.”

The first goal was created by Modric, a ball swung in from the left that Bale took on his chest and volleyed past Ali Al Habsi from close range. The second was a swivel from Modric on the edge of the Wigan area and a low drive past the goalkeeper.

The major area of concern for Spurs’ defence in the first half was how Assou-Ekotto’s afro would react to the freezing temperatures. In the event it looked magnificent throughout. Bale’s goal came from very little at all. He picked the ball up on the left side of the area, faced up to Ben Watson and then found enough space to strike the ball into the far corner. There was a debut for 19-year-old Cameron Lancaster. Job done for Spurs.

Match facts

Substitutes: Tottenham - Livermore (Van der Vaart, 31); Sandro (Walker, 76); Lancaster (Adebayor, 79). Wigan - McArthur (Gomez, 71); Sammon (Di Santo, 74); Crusat (Watson, 87).

Booked: Wigan - Crusat. Man of the match Bale. Match rating 7/10. Possession: Tottenham 53% Wigan 47%.

Attempts on target: Tottenham 13 Wigan 6.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire).

Attendance 35,801.

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