Wednesday 17 January 2018

Menacing Bale ends talk of Champions League toll

Tottenham 4 Blackburn Rovers 2

David Hytner at White Hart Lane

It sounds a little melodramatic to suggest Tottenham Hotspur have got their Premier League season back on track. After all, Harry Redknapp's team had begun the day in seventh place, and within five points of the Champions League berths.

Yet a recent return of two points from an available 12 had led to some grumbling. Was the Champions League adventure, which has seen them beat Internazionale at home and look a decent bet for the last 16, taking a toll?

Everyone at the club was mindful that, after Blackburn's visit, three of their next four league fixtures were against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. It would not have been difficult to image the reaction to a disappointing result.

It never threatened to come to that. Redknapp's team was a cut above in the areas that mattered the most and once Gareth Bale had scored the first of his two goals, Tottenham eased to victory. Blackburn had started with five in defence, with their full-backs under orders to step out to press Bale and Rafael van der Vaart, who played on the right flank. As ever these days, it was Bale who took the acclaim. He now has eight goals in all competitions -- his second was steered home after Van der Vaart appeared to have handled -- and he has given a succession of defenders nightmares.

Bale was a menace, his driving runs and whipped, low deliveries causing havoc but it was one of his deep crosses that led to Tottenham's second. Blackburn's defenders were drawn to the near post by Peter Crouch's run and Roman Pavlyuchenko rose unchallenged to head past Paul Robinson. Pavlyuchenko's finish spared him a half-time rollicking from Redknapp, or at least, it diluted the full flavour of it. The Russia striker had blown a glorious chance in the 28th minute when clean through and, shortly afterwards, he missed a penalty.

Rovers threatened to make a game of it in the second-half. Pedersen beat Heurelho Gomes but saw William Gallas kick his shot off the line and then Gomes saved from Diouf, who would later have an effort cleared off the line. Peter Crouch's first league goal of the season though, effectively ended the contest.

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