WBA 0-1 Spurs - report from The Hawthorns...
Gareth Bale's 11th Premier League goal of the season was enough to give us all three points against the 10 men of West Bromwich Albion in a competitive game at The Hawthorns on Sunday.
The Welsh flyer produced another stunning goal with his trusted left-foot to settle the outcome of the match and keep us in fourth place, closing the gap to just one point from Chelsea in third.
Bale struck in the 67th minute, receiving Lewis Holtby’s pass before skipping past James Morrison and rifling a 20-yard drive beyond Ben Foster to the sheer delight of the Spurs contingent right behind the flight of the Welshman’s shot.
Andre kept faith with the starting XI that drew 1-1 at Norwich City in midweek, with only one change being made to the matchday squad – Tom Huddlestone replacing Steven Caulker among the substitutes, new signing Holtby once again starting on the bench. Aaron Lennon’s inclusion marked his 300th appearance in our colours in all competitions.
It was the home side who started the brightest and twice went close early on. Just four minutes in Romelu Lukaku beat Michael Dawson in the air to flick the ball into the path of Shane Long who ran through on goal, Hugo Lloris was quick off his line to push him wide and the Baggies striker could only run the ball out of play. And three minutes later our French goalkeeper denied Lukaku with a save low down to his left.
In a lively opening, our first chance fell just after when Lennon beat Jonas Olsson down the right and clipped a cross to the far post where Clint Dempsey’s downward header bounced just wide of the upright.
In a slight change of formation, Bale was playing through the middle with Dempsey on the left and it the Welshman was causing the hosts plenty of problems. After quarter of an hour, he produced a typical burst past three defenders and fired a cross which Gareth McAuley headed clear and he repeated the feat on the stroke of half-time, this time cutting back on to his left foot to curl a 25-yard effort which Foster had to tip over. In between those two chances, he also drilled a fierce 34th-minute free-kick which wasn’t too far away from the top left-hand corner of Foster’s net.
Albion certainly posed a threat of their own though and went close on 21 minutes when a slide-rule pass from Graham Dorrans found Long in space in the right channel inside the box but his shot was well saved by Lloris, while Lukaku found himself through again from Olsson’s long ball just before the interval but, under pressure from the back-tracking Dembele, fired high and wide.
We needed to reshuffle after 39 minutes when Jermain Defoe limped off to be replaced by Holtby, Bale shifting back to the left as Dempsey returned to the central striking role.
Just two minutes into the second half and Albion needed a reshuffle of their own when Goran Popov was given a straight red card by referee Mark Clattenburg, after seemingly spitting at Kyle Walker as the two exchanged words following a tussle for the ball near the goalline. As a result Albion took off the threat of Lukaku and replaced him with defender Liam Ridgewell.
That changed the emphasis of the game as we took control and started to dominate possession and chances. On 54 minutes, Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s pass inside to Holtby saw the German’s left foot drive saved by Foster to his right, Assou-Ekotto himself volleyed a shot over, Walker’s right foot volley drifted wide and Jan Vertonghen’s shot was deflected wide by McAuley.
And then came the much-needed breakthrough as Bale did what Bale does so well, producing that match-winning moment of magic!
The goal enabled us to dictate play against the 10-men of West Brom and we did just that, keeping possession and carving out more chances. One of those fell to Dempsey on 74 minutes, released by Dembele’s pass but Foster tipped the USA striker’s effort wide.
The home side were still in the game at 1-0 though and Lloris was called into action three minutes later, comfortably saving Long’s 18-yard drive.
Five minutes from time, Holtby’s crossfield pass found Lennon who cut in onto his right foot but McAuley blocked his shot, while Bale headed Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner over, the Icelandic midfielder having just replaced Lennon.
In the end though, one goal was enough.
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Dorrans (Rosenberg, 81), Yacob (Fortune, 81), Morrison, Brunt; Long, Lukaku (Ridgewell, 51). Unused subs: Myhill, Thomas, Jones, Tamas.
Spurs (4-4-2): Lloris; Walker (Gallas, 78), Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Sigurdsson, 86), Dembele, Parker, Bale; Defoe (Holtby, 39), Dempsey. Unused subs: Friedel, Naughton, Huddlestone, Livermore.
Yellow cards: West Brom - Dorrans (69).
Red card: West Brom - Popov (47).
Goals: Spurs - Bale (67),
Referee: Mr M Clattenburg.
Attendance: To follow...