THFC1882 presents guest writer Kenny Palmer’s report of Tottenham Hotspur versus Wigan:
A man of the match performance by Gareth Bale against obliging opponents Wigan helped reignite Spurs title challenge, as they now sit just five points behind the Manchester clubs following the leaders City’s defeat to Everton. The Welshman’s two goal brace capping an exceptional personal display and a perfect response from the team to Friday’s poor performance against Watford in the FA Cup.
The only change in the line-up to the team that faced Manchester City in the last premiership game was Niko Kranjcar coming in for the injured Aaron Lennon. It’s a puzzle as to why the Croatian international has been so rarely used this season even from off the bench when he started the season so brightly before picking up an injury.
An early run from Gareth Bale from the left wing position proved to be a statement of intent of what was to come from the Welsh Wizard. With Wigan not pressing the ball the Spurs midfield dominated possession an ideal game for Niko Kranjcar to start as he seamlessly interchanged good passing movements with Modric, Parker and Bale in his free role. As against Spurs last opponents at the Lane Wolves, Wigan retreated to their own half and defended in numbers making it hard for Spurs to break them down.
Tottenham’s best effort in the opening stages was a shot from just outside the D from Luka Modric after some good build up play. Bale and Kranjcar continued to swap flanks to create openings. Younnes Kaboul was unlucky not to score with a powerful header from a corner which was cleared off the line. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was seeing a lot of the ball from the left with Bale floating inside. Unfortunately his decision making was poor and delivery inconsistent despite finding himself in good positions high up the left wing.
The inevitable breakthrough for Spurs came in the 25th minute. Luka Modric floated an exquisite pass from the left midfield position, possibly the pass of the season, onto the chest of Gareth Bale who timed his run to perfection and dispatched it to the left of Al Habsi’s goal. A worrying sign for Spurs soon after was the sight of Rafael van der Vaart going off and being replaced by Jake Livermore, possibly another hamstring injury which the Dutchman has been plagued with this season. The change didn’t stop the team’s rhythm as they were soon two ahead after Modric’s drive from just outside the box, another goal in successive home premiership games following on from his equaliser against Wolves. A criticism of the midfielder is that he doesn’t score enough goals for a player of his ability. His tally is now three in the league this season.
Spurs controlled the first half against a poor Wigan team. Brad Friedel was not tested at all.
Gareth Bale started the second half in similar vein to the first. On 48 minutes he broke down the right wing and put in an excellent cross with his right foot to Emmanuel Adebayor who should have scored with the header. The Togo internationals industry and work rate cannot be questioned in the game but quality wise he took his poor performance against Watford into this game straying offside on numerous occasions and lacking sharpness in the box. The signing of Louis Saha to the end of the season should put pressue on the Manchester City loanee to up his game and maybe rested as he has played all league games when available since signing.
Inevitably after a poor first half, Wigan started the second half vastly improved, taking the game to Spurs. Moses had a good effort on fifty two minutes and Ledley King had to make a great tackle in the box to stop a Wigan attack soon after. With Wigan pressing more Spurs play became sloppier with stray passing. Gareth Bales second, spurs third coming somewhat unexpectedly finding space on the left he shot across the box alluding Al Habsi into the net.
Kyle Walker departed late on having picked up a knock replaced by Sandro himself returning form injury. It is hoped it’s nothing serious as with the club allowing Vedran Corluka out on loan to Bayer Leverkusen they have no cover at right back.
Wigan’s good play was rewarded on eighty minutes with a goal from James McCarthy. The relegation strugglers should have had a second when Connor Sammon could not convert a ball flashed across his path. The closing stages of the match were illuminated by the man of the moment Gareth Bale. Released by debutant Lancaster a great run right from the right was saved by Al Habsi with the crowd willing him on to score and get his hat trick. A final trademark run in injury time this time from the left resulted in a shot wide. The Welshman’s two goal haul now takes him onto nine goals as the team’s top scorer in the premiership along with Adebayor. Following on from his performance against Norwich he once again excelled in his free role, a constant threat in the final third, be it from crosses from either flank, surging runs from deep or his powerful shooting. On current form he’s arguably the Premier League’s best player.
With the early season momentum gone from a faltering Manchester City and United having to negotiate tricky games against Chelsea and Liverpool respectively in their next two fixtures Spurs are firmly back in the title race.
Injuries to VdV, Adebayor & Walker tonight will undoubtedly test the depth of the squad particularly as the departures of Corluka, Bassong, Piennar and Roman Pavlyuchenko have weakened the squad with only the injury prone Louis Saha coming in. February’s challenging games against Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal will tell us more.
To Dare Is To Do!
Kenny Palmer (follow Kenny on Twitter @KennyPalmer )
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