at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Andre Villas-Boas and Sam Allardyce both hailed Gareth Bale as Player of the Year this season last night after another astonishing two-goal performance delivered Spurs a 3-2 win at West Ham and moved them up to third in the Premier League.
Bale has now scored eight crucial goals in his last six Tottenham games, putting them 1-0 up yesterday evening from 20 yards before scoring an unstoppable winner from 30 yards in the last minute. It was the third game from the last four that Bale has won for Spurs in the final minutes.
Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, who ran onto the pitch to embrace Bale at the final whistle, agreed that the midfielder should win the Player of the Year awards. “I think so,” he said. “It would be truly deserved, but it is not up to me to make that consideration. But you have to recognise that he is having a tremendous season. So he is probably a contender, he is for us, hopefully he can get there.”
Allardyce, his West Ham counterpart, said afterwards that Bale had made more of a difference than any other player in the league this season. “We've heard a lot about Michu at Swansea and what [Robin] Van Persie has done for Manchester United but at the moment there's nobody doing more for a football club than Gareth Bale for Tottenham, by the quality of goals he is scoring and consistent level of goals.”
Gylfi Sigurdsson's scrambled equaliser for Spurs last night was the first league goal scored by a Spurs player other than Bale since Clint Dempsey against Manchester United on 20 January. “I am not sure anybody else has scored for them recently,” Allardyce said, “and every goal he seems to be getting is outside the box as well.”
Bale settled the game in the final minute, beating the brilliant Jussi Jaaskelainen from distance and finding the top corner. “He is a great, great talent and to see him keep trying in the last minute exemplifies the talent that he is,” Villas-Boas said. “Taking the ball, receiving it, getting fouled in between, getting up - he has got stick for staying down - but he gets up and gets on with business and managed to score a great goal.”
“His precision is tremendous, the way it leaves off his boot is incredible, this evening we saw him go close a couple of times, but he kept trying. His precision is tremendous, down to the player that he is and ambition he has.”
Bale has been playing in a more forward role recently behind Emmanuel Adebayor and Villas-Boas attributed his remarkable scoring run to this new position. “I think he's on a tremendous level this season, he is really enjoying his football, now playing as a striker,” Villas-Boas said. “When you are able to make a player feel comfortable things can only get better and it is down to him and his motivation.”
Allardyce said he had no option but to appreciate the winning strike. “You have got to admire the quality of the goal,” he said. “You are disappointed as opposition when it is scored against you but no matter who you are, Tottenham fan or West Ham fan, you have got to admire a goal like that by a player who is the big difference for Tottenham at the moment. If you get too tight he skips past you, if you stand off him he hits them like that.”
The win moves Spurs up to third in the Premier League, two points ahead of Chelsea and four ahead of Arsenal, whom Spurs face in the north London derby on Sunday afternoon.
“The team is very committed to the objectives, we were handed this opportunity tonight of going third and a nine-point distance from Everton [in sixth],” Villas-Boas said. “We have further opportunity against Arsenal to go seven points ahead, it will be a hard game. The conditions were there for us to play this game very, very seriously, which is why you saw the players go in that celebration.”
Allardyce said he was “gutted” for his players but argued that Mousa Dembélé should have been sent off early in the second half.
“I feel Howard Webb has to send Dembélé off. He's fouled Kevin Nolan which he got booked for, then Momo Diame, then he pulls down Joe Cole and then kicks the ball away. Mike Riley tells us all day long that's a yellow card.”
Such a thrilling game was fitting occasion for West Ham marking the 20th anniversary of the death of former captain Bobby Moore with a series of gestures aiming to celebrate their greatest ever player and raise money for the cancer research fund named after him.
The club have pledged to donate £50,000 to the fund this season and Moore's daughter Roberta was the special guest for last night's game. West Ham's players warmed up in red T-shirts with “Moore 6” on the back and there was a well-observed minute of applause before the game. There was also a special commemorative programme full of tributes to Moore, with 50p from each sale going to his fund.
In the programme, Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer remembered Moore warmly. The two faced each other in the World Cup final of 1966. “He was an exceptionally gifted player and a true leader on the field, because he was a personality with charisma and he was able to motivate his team-mates,” Beckenbauer said. – The Independent