London: Gareth Bale once again saved Tottenham with two brilliant goals in a nerve-wracking 2-1 victory over Newcastle at White Hart Lane to boost his side’s chances of a top-four finish.
The Welshman continued his stunning recent form to take his tally for the season to 13 Premier League goals with two deadly strikes.
Bale put the hosts ahead in the fifth minute with a free kick from 25 yards before the visitors equalised through Youan Gouffran’s deflected strike in the 24th minute.
Just as Spurs appeared to be running out of ideas, Bale came to the rescue with a fine solo effort 12 minutes from time to extend the Londoners’ fine form to 10 league games unbeaten.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas only named Emmanuel Adebayor as a substitute after the Togolese returned from the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday evening, meaning the hosts started with no recognised striker with Jermain Defoe sidelined for three weeks with an ankle injury while January signing Lewis Holtby made his first start for the club.
Newcastle, for their part, started with the same line-up that won their previous two matches as they climb the table following a winter spending splurge on the French Ligue 1.
The Tottenham players warmed up wearing ‘get well soon Joe’ t-shirts in support of coach Tony Parks’ son, who was involved in a serious car accident this week.
Before kick-off, two two benches shared warm embraces and friendly words - presumably in both English and French.
But Bale wasted little time in wiping the smiles off the Newcastle players’ faces as he opened the scoring in the fifth minute.
First, Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini conceded a clumsy free kick for a challenge on Clint Dempsey 25 yards from goal.
Bale has been in sparkling form in recent weeks and he punished the visitors as he whipped the set-piece over the wall Cristiano Ronaldo-style into the bottom corner of Tim Krul’s goal.
While Spurs continued to threaten through Bale and Holtby, Newcastle increasingly grew into the game and - after Papiss Cisse missed the target with a free header from eight yards - Alan Pardew’s side were rewarded for their attacking ambition in the 24th minute.
It was a goal made and converted by two January signings. Moussa Sissoko burst past Kyle Naughton down the right side and had the awareness to pick out Gouffran on the edge of the Tottenham box.
The winger took a touch before shooting powerfully at goal, the ball deflecting heavily off Michael Dawson’s back to leave Hugo Lloris with no chance in the Spurs goal.
The second half started in pedestrian fashion and the flat atmosphere was not helped by the seemingly serious injury suffered by Gouffran in an innocuous challenge with Kyle Walker. The Frenchman was treated on the pitch for several minutes before and required oxygen as he was carried off on a stretcher with a suspected broken leg.
Spurs brought on Adebayor for the final quarter of the game as Bale shifted into a more central role.
It was a switch that worked as, out of nothing, the Welshman scored his second goal of the game 12 minutes from time.
As the ball bounced between Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor just inside their own half, the Newcastle centre-backs hesitated and Bale only needed a split second to burst through on goal before slotting the ball through Krul’s legs.
Bale nearly completed a stunning hat-trick three minutes from time but Krul kept out his fierce drive with a superb fingertip save.
Yohan Cabaye was then lucky to escape a red card late on for a nasty late challenge on Mousa Dembele while Lloris made a wonderful late save at substitute Shola Ameobi`s feet as Spurs held on for another Bale-inspired victory.