CELEBRATION TIME: Spurs players after another goal against Wigan
WITH TOTTENHAM not having lost a game at home since August, it was always going to be tough for rock-bottom Wigan to come away with anything from White Hart Lane. And when the home side went 3-0 up, two courtesy of the fantastic Gareth Bale, it looked like they would coast to victory.
However, a deflected, looping shot from Wigan substitute James McArthur buoyed the visitors and although Spurs class shone through overall, and Bale should have got his hat-trick, there were some excellent chances for Roberto Martinez’s men to make things really nervy for the title-chasing home side.
Spurs’ victory came at a cost injury wise with Rafael van der Vaart, Kyle Walker and Emmanuel Adebayor all limping off, the latter two within minutes of each other.
But that couldn’t detract from the importance of this victory- especially with the news filtering through that Manchester United old boy Darren Gibson had given Everton a surprise 1-0 victory over title rivals Manchester City.
Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe both missed out for the home side after picking up knocks in the FA Cup win against Watford and the absence of the latter did little to quell the rumours about his future.
Spurs started the brighter of the two sides and they looked particularly lively down the left where Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale were linking up well.
Luka Modric’s 15th minute effort sailed harmlessly over the bar and Adebayor then played the ball across the area to Walker who was able to hook it back to the striker, but his header also went just over.
This proved to be a sign of things to come and Spurs took the lead through Bale just before the half hour mark. Modric curled the ball over from the left and the Welshman lost his marker and was able to chest the ball and hit it past Ali Al-Habsi, who got a hand to it but couldn’t divert it out of the net .
Van der Vaart had pulled up with a calf injury seconds before his team went ahead and it became clear that he was unable to continue, with Jake Livermore coming on as a substitute.
Spurs’ second came three minutes later, with Bale this time involved in the build-up. He swung the ball across to Assou-Ekotto and his cross rebounded off the Wigan defence and eventually into the path of Modric who was able to drill it past the goalkeeper from 20 yards.
It could have been three just minutes into the second half. Bale, running down the right, evaded the challenge of Maynor Figueroa and looped it across to Adebayor, who in similar fashion to the first-half diverted his header over the bar.
However, the visitors appeared a lot more lively in the early stages of the second half and Victor Moses sent a good effort just over whilst Ronnie Stam almost threaded a ball to the feet of Franco Di Santo, who hassled by the Spurs defence, was unable to control.
It was again the fantastic combination of Modric, Assou-Ekotto and Bale that produced Tottenham’s third. Modric spotted the defender free on the left and swung a ball over to him, which he then chested down and played across to Bale, who was able to score his second of the night, placing it from an awkward angle to put the game to bed. Or so it seemed.
During a ten minute spell, in which Spurs lost two players to injury, Wigan were also forced to replace Di Santo with Connor Sammon, whihc disrupted play and this seemed to spring Wigan into life.
Sandro, who hasn’t played since getting injured against West Brom, replaced Walker to rapturous applause, who suffered a left groin injury and just seconds later Adebayor pulled his left hamstring, allowing Cameron Lancaster to make his first- team debut.
Wigan got what proved to be a consolation goal through McArthur, on for by Brad Friedel. A second was on the cards when the impressive Stam sent a ball across the area but Sammon was unable to connect with the goal gaping.
However, between this, Bale had a number of chances to get a deserved treble and will rue the reflexes of Al-Habsi, who dived to his left and palmed away one of his efforts.
Spurs will be disappointed by their inability to again keep a cleen sheet but there was no doubt what the biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for the news that Everton were leading, and eventually beat, Manchester City, ensuring that the title race continues to be wide open and the north Londoners are are now only five points off the top of the table.