Gareth Bale continued his incredible scoring streak to provide the inspiration for Tottenham once more as his stunning last minute strike saw his side beat West Ham 3-2 at Upton Park on Monday.
The result takes Tottenham up to third in the Barclays Premier League, two points above Chelsea and four above Arsenal in the keenly-fought battle to make the Champions League next season.
It was an action-packed London derby in which Tottenham took an early lead through Bale, but West Ham fought back to go in front through on an Andy Carroll penalty and a Joe Cole strike wither side of half time. Tottenham created a succession of chances after the break, but looked like they had to settle for a point provided through substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson's scrappy equalizer.
That was until Bale picked the ball up 30 yards from goal, shifted it onto his left foot and sent a shot arrowing into the back of the net. The delight was clear on the face of Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas, but there will doubtless be some concerns once the dust settles at the inability of some of his other players to ably support Bale's remarkable recent feats.
After a rousing tribute to Bobby Moore on the 20th anniversary of the Wet Ham and England legend’s death, the home side began strongly as they looked to edge closer toward confirming their Premier League status for next season.
Yet, within 13 minutes West Ham became the latest side to fall victim the phenomenally in-form Bale. The Welsh winger scored for the fourth Premier League game of the season, yet West Ham will be disappointed with their compliance to the goal.
Guy Demel played a woefully casual pass across the edge of his own box allowing Bale to pick it up and, having been criminally shown onto his left foot by James Collins, Tottenham’s top scorer didn’t need a second invitation as he struck a low shot just beyond the dive of Jussi Jaaskelainen.
With recent signing Lewis Holtby toiling in vain to make things happen in support of Emmanuel Adebayor, it was clear who held the visitor’s main threat. But Bale perhaps got carried away with his own recent scoring streak when he shot poorly from 20 yards when more than one of his teammates were better positioned.
Bale was apologetic for poor decision making and he would have been doubly so after West Ham immediately went up the other end and grabbed an equalizer.
With West Ham trying to get a shot away in the area, former Hammers midfielder Scott Parker dove in foolishly on Carroll and while there was some contact with the ball, it was a clear foul and Howard Webb was fully justified in awarding a penalty.
Carroll took the responsibility from the spot and struck with conviction past Hugo Lloris for his third
While West Ham had shown plenty of endeavor, it was Tottenham who will have been disappointed to go in level at the break.
With half-time approaching, Jaaskelainen made a fine one-handed save to keep Steven Caulker’s powerful header out of the net and right before the whistle Bale hit a now trademark free-kick from 35 yards that had even more movement than normal but just missed the top corner of the net.
Coming out after the interval, West ham started the second period on top. But for all their positive intentions, Tottenham will still be wondering how they failed to retake the lead in the 57th minute.
With his first involvement since replacing Holtby, Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a fine strike from 25 yards that Jaaskelainen helped onto the post, but Adebayor looked certain to score as the ball bounced up to him from the rebound. But, with dreadful casualness the Togo forward headed with little power straight at the West Ham goalkeeper.
The home side wasted little time in capitalizing on their reprieve. Barely a minute after they should have fallen behind, Jan Vertonghen allowed Joe Cole to run beyond him and the former England midfielder took down Joey O’Brien’s chipped ball before dispatching a low shot across Lloris and into the corner of the net.
For Tottenham, it looking like it would be a performance characterized by missed opportunities. Caulker headed the ball more down into the ground than toward goal from the center of goal, six yards out, allowing Jaaskelainen to get across and make an acrobatic save to deny Tottenham once more, while another long-range Bale effort was tipped onto the bar by the West Ham goalkeeper.
West Ham also got in on the act and missed a glorious chance to double their lead when Cole played Matthew Taylor through but Lloris spread himself to deny the substitute’s effort.
And this time it was West Ham that paid almost immediately for their profligacy. With the ball scrambling around the six yard box following a free-kick, Tottenham looked like they might miss yet another opportunity, but Sigurdsson applied a decisive touch to take the ball into the net from close range.
It looked like that would be the end to the scoring, but for the second time in three games, Bale struck in the final minute of the 90. Having helped see off Lyon in the Europa League, Bale repeated the trick at Upton Park with a sensational strike past Jaaskelainen, who, more than any West Ham player, can count himself unlucky to be on the losing side.