Premier League: Gareth Bale hits double against QPR to help stretch Spurs’ undefeated run
Tottenham 3-1 QPR
Tottenham continued their fine run of form in a game that threatened to first delight, then fright Spurs fans, before ending in a 3-1 defeat of Queens Park Rangers.
Unbeaten since an opening day, yet less remembered, mauling at the hands of Manchester City, Tottenham have been progressing neatly and quietly, both domestically and in the Europa League. A sense of confidence was radiating from the players clothed in white as Spurs sparkled in a first half which could have seen them out of site and well over the horizon at the interval. As it played out, a combination of wayward finishing and Paddy Kenny heroics in the Rangers goal kept the score to a retrievable 2-0 at the break.
In a whirlwind opening, Rafael van der Vaart controlled a tame Luka Modric shot only to see his low effort repelled by Kenny from 12 yards. Emmanuel Adebayor then squandered two chances in quick succession. The on-loan Togo international contradicted his fearsome aerial prowess by somehow heading wide from a van der Vaart free kick, then failing to make contact from a Gareth Bale cross following a brisk break down the Spurs left.
Lilywhites fans had only to wait until the 20th minute until the seemingly inevitable breakthrough. Adebayor’s flicked header was received by Van der Vaart whose reverse pass rolled into the path of Aaron Lennon, breaking in from the right flank. With the QPR defence sucked in, Lennon released Bale on the left of the penalty box, the Welshman killing the ball with one touch and rifling low into the corner of the net for his second of the night.
Van der Vaart maintained his purple patch in front of goal as he doubled the home side’s advantage on 33 minutes. Through either acute positional awareness, or a stroke of good fortune, the Dutchman again found himself perfectly placed to collect a wayward shot, this time from Ledley King, and, with a subtle glance, deceived Kenny into diving in the wrong direction. This was van der Vaart’s 6th goal in the last 5 Premier League matches.
Rangers had barely inconvenienced their London rivals and were anything but an on-field image of their firebrand boss, Neil Warnock. However, the game’s storyline changed course after the break as QPR improved both in work rate and attacking intent. Warnock’s brave decision to use up his entire quota of substitutes by the restart paid dividends as Jay Bothroyd and Jamie Mackie added physicality and determination, respectively. Rangers’ first change had been enforced early on when central defender Fitz Hall succumbed to injury.
It was substitute Bothroyd who forged Rangers’ path back into the game by nodding in from close range after striker Heidar Helguson had headed a corner back across the 6 yard box. Tottenham’s two goal cushion was almost restored instantaneously when Kenny inexplicably fumbled a van der Vaart free kick, only to redeem himself by blocking Bale’s follow-up drive.
In another illustration of how a goal can alter the course of a game, a sumptuous exchange of passes between Lennon and Bale ended with the latter curling into the top corner and, in a moment of brilliance, calmed any nerves that were starting to fray inside White Hart Lane. The game ended with Spurs twice denying Rangers a consolation by hacking the ball off the goal line but, by this stage, the game was won already.
With this victory Tottenham move up to 5th position, one place below their season’s objective of a top four finish. QPR remain 12th.