Sunday 24 September 2017

Bale keeps Spurs in touch

Henry Winter

Tottenham Hotspur continue to put daylight between themselves and fourth-placed Chelsea. Gareth Bale continues to put his name up in lights,

The Welshman was again magnificent, occasionally flying down the flanks but often weaving magic through the middle and scoring twice.

Bale struck either side of a Luka Modric goal, and Spurs were cruising, so in control that they dozed off briefly, allowing the terrific Wigan substitute James McArthur to make it 3-1.

Wigan were so poor for so long and their future in the Premier League remains in huge doubt. They lacked a cutting edge, although their hopes were hardly helped when Franco Di Santo departed following a strong challenge from Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Even before first-half goals from Bale and Modric started thudding into their net, Wigan's frustrations at this game being played on transfer deadline day had been understandable. Roberto Martinez clearly felt that his best striker, Hugo Rodallega, had been too unsettled by all the transfer speculation to start, so was left with his thoughts on the bench.

Wigan's 3-5-2 system was immediately exposed down the flanks. Their wing-backs, Ronnie Stam and the left-sided, debut-making Jean Beausejour, were so vulnerable to Spurs' wide men.

Kyle Walker charged into space. Bale and Assou-Ekotto dominated the left. Wigan looked increasingly doomed. Modric was everywhere, creating and scoring. From one Modric corner, Younes Kaboul rose above the ragged ramparts of Wigan's defence to head goalwards. Ali Al Habsi, experiencing yet another draining night, saved well.

Spurs' control was soon turned into something tangible, into a lovely goal just before the half-hour mark.

Modric was inevitably at the heart of it, lifting in a ball that Bale controlled deftly on his chest and then directed firmly past Al Habsi. It was a sweet goal, a blend of vision, timing and technical expertise. And defensive incompetence.

One quickly became two. Even though Rafael van der Vaart had hobbled off, seeming to have hurt his calf, Spurs simply stepped up a gear. Good work by Assou-Ekotto on the left saw the ball arrive at the clever feet of Modric. The nimble little Croatian turned and sent the ball racing past Al Habsi.

The Wigan stopper picked the ball out of his net again just after the hour-mark when Bale drilled low and hard past him.

Nothing was going Wigan's way. Assou-Ekotto thudded into a challenge on Di Santo, poleaxing the striker, who was furious about the tackle. He eventually hobbled away, rolling his sock down to reveal a nasty cut.

The wound in Wigan's season runs even deeper despite McArthur's late consolation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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