Stoke City (A) Bale exorcises Britannia demons.


Audere est facere
Jul 28, 2004
Thread starter #1
In the autumn of 2008, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Gareth Bale suffered their worst moments in unison with one another. Spurs were rooted to the foot of the table, having just lost for the sixth time in just eight league games, and Bale was largely to blame after a display in which he was sent off in the process of conceding and early penalty. This was at Stokes home ground, and would be the last Premier League game overseen by Juande Ramos. The impending appointment of Harry Redknapp would see both Spurs and their young Welsh prodigy experience far better fortunes.

Now outsiders for the title rather than relegation fodder, Spurs made this trip with Peter Crouch their only fit forward, and a midfield lacking the creative force that is Luka Modric. One sensed that if Spurs were to find inspiration this game, it would come from the youth and pace of their wingers Lennon and Bale, and that is exactly how events transpired. After a cagey start to the match by both sides, in which both goalkeepers made only comfortable saves, Lennon picked the ball up on the left flank before a clever jinking run infield on the nineteenth minute.*

What followed was a perfect chipped through ball to Bale as he closed down on Thomas Sorensen, but his first touch was heavy and the great Dane was there to parry. However, the ball ricocheted off Bales foot and onto the head of Crouch, who headed the ball goalwards only to see Ryan Shawcross clear off the line. Spurs would not be thwarted though and the young centre back's clearance hit Bale in the face and rebounded straight into the net. Bale will have never scored a luckier goal, or a more painful one.

Spurs lead was to be short lived, however, as in the twenty fourth minute, after the usual post kick off tentativeness, Stoke found their favourite route to goal, a set piece. As the corner was flighted into the area, Dawson found himself wrestled out of contention for the aerial ball and Gomes saw his path blocked, the colour of the obstructor's shirt dependant on camera angles. As the ball came back across the area off Faye, Ricardo Fuller had the simplest of executions to level the scores.

The Premier League is nothing if not fast and unpredictable, and Spurs showed exactly why just five minutes later. If the first goal had an element if fortune, this was sheer brilliance. After a nice passing move, Aaron Lennon again picked up the ball, this time towards the right of the area, and he ran at the Stoke defence. As the red and White defenders decided whether to back off or close down, Lennon spotted Bale at the far end of the area and floated a perfect cross which Bale showed incredible technique, compose and flexibility to volley into the top corner at the far post. An early contender for goal of the season, and I cannot think of a superlative generous enough to describe Bale's finish.

The half tailed off with Spurs controlling play and Stoke counting down till the whistle, and it could have been 1-3 when Bale latched onto Jenas through pass only to see his cross be met bravely by Sorensen when His aforementioned team mate was threatening to extend the lead. The half ended at 2-1 and Spurs were confident.

The second half told a different story. Spurs, similarly to last week against Manchester City, lacked the same energy and control, while Stoke were more dominant and definitely more physical. However, it wasn't until the sixtieth minute introduction of Tuncay that their dominance started producing a goal threat. The skilful Turk dropped into that space between midfield and attack that defenders seldom follow, and the up till now brilliant Tom Huddlestone struggled with his trickery and movement. It nearly came to fruition when Tuncay found himself bathed in space outside the Spurs area and hit a long shot which, after deflection, was dipping in for an equaliser but for Gomes' superb save.

The half continued in this fashion, Stoke pressing and threatening but being denied by a combination of poor finishing and Gomes' good reflexes, until late on when, with minutes remaining, Stoke again had a corner. Again, as the ball was flighted in, infringements against the Spurs defence were plentiful, none more obvious than a push on Gomes which referee Chris Foy saw fit to ignore. Debutant Jonathan Walters rose to power a header at goal and when Crouch stopped the ball with his chest, Stoke's players believed it was over the line. Even though just a few yards away, Chris Foy disagreed and let play continue, and when several replays from all angles brought no conclusion, Foy could not have awarded a goal in a split second.

Spurs held on for the win under pressure that, pre Redknapp, they'd have wilted under, and while for many the talking point will be the controversy of the final moments, my talking point is how this match symbolises the immense progress made by both Gareth Bale and his side, Tottenham Hotspur.

Man of the Match: Easily Gareth Bale
Moment of the Match: Bale's sublime winner.