Tottenham missed out on a place in next season’s Champions League despite a 1-0 victory over Sunderland at White Hart Lane. Going into the final match of the Premier League season, Tottenham knew that they were reliant on Arsenal failing to win if they were going to claim a place in the top four. The result would not go their way as their north London rivals beat Newcastle by the same scoreline to ensure it is they that earn a qualifier to get into Europe’s premier competition next season. Tottenham, meanwhile, will have to settle for another season in the Europa League.
Tottenham had done everything but score in an almost entirely one-way contest against a Sunderland team with little to play for other than pride. But, after being denied three resounding penalty appeals by referee Andre Marriner and being repeatedly kept out by Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Gareth Bale came up with the latest in a string of brilliant late winners.
Yet, to the despair of Tottenham’s players, coaching staff and fans, there was to be no late equalizer at St James’ Park for Newcastle as Spurs once again came up short to their neighbors. It will be little consolation right now, but Tottenham can take solace in the fact that they achieved a club record points haul in the Premier League with 72.
Tottenham had immediately set about their task of getting the win they needed to fulfill their half of the bargain to try and earn a return to the Champions League.
Emmanuel Adebayor tested Simon Mignolet early on with a near-post effort that the Belgian tuned away. But, while the Sunderland goalkeeper was proving difficult to beat, the real thorn in the home side was the officiating.
As Bale burst down the left of the area before being grabbed and then shoved to the ground by both hands of Sebastian Larrsson, a penalty looked a certainty. But Marriner, who was a long way behind the play, had other ideas and instead booked Bale for diving.
But if Tottenham and Bale were frustrated then they would soon became incredulous as a second clear-cut penalty claim was denied them later in the first half. After good play down the left from Aaron Lennon, the ball rolled through to Bale at the far post and the forward hit a scuffed shot at goal that was clearly blocked by the outstretched arm of Jack Colback. Again, though, Marriner had a different perspective on proceedings.
Against the run of play, Sunderland created a good chance of their own in between those two penalty appeals. Danny Graham had done well to pick out Connor Wickham at the near post, but the young striker’s effort was well blocked away by Hugo Lloris.
Sunderland created another clear chance after the break but again Lloris was on top form, this time in denying a low effort from Graham. From that point on it was a relentless assault on the visitors’ goal. Incredibly a third resounding penalty appeal was turned down, again for handball, this time as Carlos Cuellar fell to the ground and his outstretched arm blocked a shot from Adebayor.
After an incredible goalmouth scramble just past the hour-mark it appeared that the goal would never come. Mignolet lost the ball in a challenge with Clint Dempsey and it fell to Scott Parker, but the midfielder’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Colback and the defender then turned Aaron Lennon’s follow-up onto the post to keep Tottenham at bay.
Tottenham received a boost, though, when David Vaughan was shown his second yellow card following a late challenge on Lennon. But, in the final minute of the 90, Bale repeated a trick that has played a huge part in keeping Tottenham in the hunt for the Champions League right until the last. The Welshman cut inside from the left and from 25 yards unleashed a stunning effort that flew past Mignolet into the top corner. Tottenham fans will now hope that Bale remains at White Hart Lane next season to reproduce the same magic.