Old boy Bale inflicts more pain on suffering Saints
Southampton 1 Tottenham 2
The sleepless nights are clearly not affecting Gareth Bale yet, the new father celebrating his return from paternity leave with a goal that helped lift Tottenham into the Champions League places for the first time this season.
With Clint Dempsey doubling the lead, Spurs were able to withstand a second-half Southampton rally, given impetus by Jay Rodriquez's third goal for the club since his £7m summer arrival.
Bale was given last week off after his partner gave birth to a baby girl, but was delighted to return in time to make his first appearance at Southampton since leaving the club in 2007. Saints were less pleased to see him after his 11th-minute goal sent them towards their seventh defeat in nine games.
Nigel Adkins insisted he is "confident" he will be given time to turn his team's form around, but there are signs that the tough start to the campaign has taken its toll on his players.
Against the Manchester clubs at the start of the season, Saints exuberantly had taken the game to their opponents. Then, however, they were still buoyed by back-to-back promotions. That confidence has drained away and they played the first 45 minutes as if the prime aim was to keep the score down. Tom Huddlestone barely faced a tackle in that period and dictated play without breaking into a sweat.
It was his 30-yard pass that set up Kyle Walker, whose cross was headed back across the goal and into the net by Bale. Six minutes from the break Dempsey scored the goal which appeared to both kill the game and sum it up.
Aaron Lennon drove unchallenged from midfield before finding Jermain Defoe with a clever reverse pass. Defoe chipped over Boruc, but Jose Fonte looked about to hack the ball away only to lose his footing, scuff his clearance and allow Dempsey to prod the ball in.
Saints upped the tempo in the second period and their positive intent was soon evident with Brad Friedel brought into action for the first time in the afternoon to save a Jason Puncheon volley. They continued to press and were rewarded midway through the half. Fox's corner was met by Fonte, and though Friedel parried his flick, Rodriguez lashed in the rebound.
There was a time when Tottenham would have crumbled under the subsequent bombardment, but while it was tense enough for Villas-Boas to resume his famous crouch in the final minutes, his players' attitude was epitomised by Sandro, who was knocked to the ground by the force of a Morgan Schneiderlin shot he blocked. (© Independent News Service)