Bale hat-trick completes Villa's Christmas nightmare
Aston Villa 0
GARETH BALE has inflicted a second nightmare this Christmas on Aston Villa by scoring his first Premier League hat-trick to lift Tottenham back into the Champions League places.
The Welshman's devastating 23-minute second-half triple and a Jermain Defoe strike helped Spurs to an away win as comfortable as an armchair by the fire, and left Villa digesting an unwelcome record.
Four days after their 8-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge it took the home side's goals conceded to a festive dozen, equalling the record for goals-against in consecutive Premier League matches.
What Paul Lambert would give for a Scrooge at the heart of his defence as he contemplates a relegation battle with a callow squad who cannot but be scarred by the consecutive batterings of the past week.
Tottenham's dominance was almost total and the only surprise was that it took them as long as 57 minutes to turn their monopoly of possession into goals. Once they scored the result was as predictable as a Christmas playlist.
A small consolation for Lambert as he tries to lift his players is that they
will not face a player of Bale's gifts every week. His pace and directness are long established, but here we saw the assured finishing and eye for where chances might fall that has brought him nine league goals this season.
Three times he drifted off his wing to join breaks and finished unerringly when given the chance. Andre Villas- Boas is loath to single out individuals but Bale's performance left him with little choice.
"He's up there with the best, he's showing tremendous skills and talent," the Portuguese said. "I think he's improving every game. You recognise he is one of our major assets, for sure."
The breakthrough came from Defoe, bursting on to a well-judged through- ball from full-back Kyle Naughton to
toe-poke his finish between Brad Guzan's legs.
Bale then took over, killing the game stone-dead as Villa walked on to a classic counter-punch. Sandro cut out a Benteke cross on the edge of his own area and after Ciaran Clarke and Joe Bennett's fluffed chances to kill the danger the ball found its way Bale, stampeding through the middle. He dropped his shoulder to round Guzan and rolled the ball into the empty net.
His second came a dozen minutes later, firing into the bottom corner after being found unmarked 14 yards out by Aaron Lennon. The hat-trick was secured from a similar position with six minutes remaining, substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson this time providing the pass.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)