Europa League: Bale free-kicks Spurs to 2-1 win against Lyon
London: Gareth Bale`s set-piece brilliance secured Tottenham a slender advantage over Lyon after an entertaining Europa League round-of-32 first-leg clash at White Hart Lane.
The Welshman gave his side the win with practically the last kick of the game with a second sublime free-kick, having seen his first cancelled out by a Samuel Umtiti thunderbolt.
Spurs still have work to do if they are to reach the last 16, but many of those present will simply feel privileged to have witnessed three truly fabulous goals.
Andre Villas-Boas denied Hugo Lloris a start against his former club by fielding Brad Friedel, while Emmanuel Adebayor made the starting XI for the first time since returning from Afcon duty with Togo.
Former Spurs man Steed Malbranque received a warm reception from the home crowd before taking his place at the heart of the Lyon midfield, while former Arsenal defender Remi Garde also returned to north London as manager of the French giants.
A high-intensity opening yielded few clear chances, with Bale’s deflected volley over from Kyle Walker’s hanging cross on nine minutes the closest either side came to a breakthrough.
But six minutes later Spurs were saved by referee Pedro Proenca – Bafetimbi Gomis jinking into the box and colliding with the outstretched leg of Jan Vertonghen, only to see his appeals waved away.
Stung into action, the home side roared back, and on 27 minutes Mousa Dembele’s sublime pass sent Adebayor running through, but the Togo international sliced his finish.
Lyon were struggling to deal with the pace of their hosts, and ten minutes later Walker raced to the byeline before picking out Bale, who miscued his shot with the goal gaping.
But as half-time loomed the Welshman finally made his mark, dipping a superb 35-yard free-kick beyond a scrambling Remy Vercoutre and into the bottom corner.
As White Hart Lane saluted his brilliance, he seemed to dedicate the strike to all those celebrating Valentine’s Day with his customary heart celebration, and a buoyed Spurs led at the break.
Lyon embarked on the second half with renewed purpose but were frustrated by some disciplined defending from the home side – until the 54th minute, when Umtiti had his say.
A looping cross from Lisandro Lopez was comfortably headed away to the corner of the area by William Gallas, and the danger appeared to have passed.
But the 19-year-old raced onto the loose ball and unleashed a half-volley with his first touch which blazed into the top corner in the blink of an eye, leaving Friedel rooted and stunned.
Lyon had found their swagger again, and on 62 minutes Alexandre Lacazette glided away from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen and Scott Parker before stinging the palms of Friedel.
Bale still looked a threat at the other end, though, and moments later the Welshman forced Vercoutre to beat the ball clear with his second attempt from the edge of the area.
But the Welshman was not to be denied, and rifled another brilliant free-kick past Vercoutre in injury time to secure a result which ensures Spurs have a lead to protect at the Stade de Gerland next Thursday.