Match Reports

Albion v Tottenham

Bale strike sinks ten-man Baggies

TEN-MAN Albion’s brave rearguard action was ended by a trademark Gareth Bale blast.

The Baggies gave as good as they got during a tight first half in which they created the better chances, with Hugo Lloris the busier of the two keepers.

But Steve Clarke’s side faced an uphill struggle just three minutes after the break when Goran Popov was red-carded for allegedly spitting at Kyle Walker.

Spurs proceeded to peg the Baggies back on the edge of their own box and Bale broke the deadlock in the 67th minute with a stunning 22-yard strike.

Albion were not found wanting in the effort department as they battled against the odds to try and salvage a point, but it proved a bridge too far.

Ninth entertained fourth at The Hawthorns with both teams determined to end winless runs.

Shane Long was recalled to partner Romelu Lukaku in a Barclays Premier League starting XI for only the second time while Steven Reid returned from injury at right-back.

Claudio Yacob was also back in and the men to make way were benched duo Jerome Thomas and Billy Jones plus long-term injured George Thorne.

Andre Villas Boas named an unchanged Spurs team from their 1-1 draw at Norwich in midweek. 

Albion started like a house on fire and created two openings inside the first seven minutes.

Lukaku outjumped Michael Dawson to put Long clean through but the Ireland striker, in trying to round the on-rushing Lloris, took too heavy a touch and the ball ran out for a goal-kick.

Chris Brunt then found Lukaku in space 20 yards out and the on-loan Chelsea man saw his low drive well held by Lloris in front of his right-hand post.

Spurs went close themselves when Aaron Lennon picked out Clint Dempsey at the far post and his downward header flashed just wide.

The visitors’ line-up was packed full of attacking talent and Foster had to be alert to rush out of his area and narrowly beat Jermain Defoe to Bale’s headed through-ball.

In the 20th minute, Mousa Dembele jinked past Yacob before firing horribly wide from 25 yards.

But it was Albion creating the more gilt-edged chances – and another arrived a minute later.

The influential Graham Dorrans dissected the Tottenham rearguard with a sublime pass with the outside of his right foot to tee up Long inside the box. The former Reading man took one touch before seeing his left-footed shot superbly blocked by Lloris at his near post.

This was proving to be an intriguing contest and, on 27, Dempsey raced to the edge of the Albion box before dragging his shot harmlessly wide of the far post.

Spurs won a free-kick in a dangerous position in the middle of the Baggies ‘D’ on 33 when Yacob upended Defoe. The Albion wall braced itself as Bale prepared to left fly – but he screwed his shot wide of the left-hand post.

Tottenham suffered an injury blow on 39 when Defoe, so often Albion’s nemesis, was carried off and replaced by their new signing Lewis Holtby.

Albion’s performance had been full of commitment and endeavour and after keeping Spurs out of their box for a short period, they sprung into life on 43. Jonas Olsson neatly played Lukaku clear of the Spurs backline but with Belgian team-mate Dembele closing him down, the powerful striker miscued into the Smethwick End from just inside the box.

Foster was called on to make his first real save in the third minute of stoppage time – and it proved vital. Bale galloped across field before cutting inside on the right-hand edge of the box and unleashing a 20-yard curler which Foster brilliantly tipped over.

The second half had barely got going when Albion suffered a major setback. Popov was shown a straight red card by referee Mark Clattenburg for allegedly spitting in the direction of Walker.

A shell-shocked Albion had to defend a couple of Spurs corners before Clarke made a predictable change, bringing on Ridgewell at left-back and sacrificing one of his two strikers, Lukaku.

Foster was called on to make his next save on 54 when he pushed away Holtby’s fierce 18-yard drive after being fed by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Predictably, Tottenham began to camp on the edge of the Baggies box and Foster again showed his alertness by preventing Holtby from connecting with a left-wing cross.

Walker miscued an inviting 16-yard volley well wide after Albion only partially cleared a corner before Foster saved bravely at the feet of Bale when Gareth McAuley was outmuscled by the Wales international in chasing down Assou-Ekotto’s dink into the box.

On 63, Jan Vertonghen let fly from fully 35 yards but his low drive clipped McAuley and dribbled wide.

Albion’s brave resistance was finally shattered in the 67th minute. Bale made room for a shot just outside the Baggies’ ‘D’ and he beat Foster all ends up with an unstoppable left-footed shot.

Bale was in the thick of it again on 70 when he ran at Reid before seeing his stabbed shot deflected wide by McAuley.

Albion tried manfully to get upfield and create chances but Tottenham were not in generous mood. And Foster again had to be on his toes on 78 to push wide Dempsey’s acute drive.

Albion DID create a shooting chance on 80, though, when Morrison threaded in Long, but the lone striker shot straight at Lloris from 18 yards.

ALBION (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Dorrans (Rosenberg 81), Yacob (Fortune 81), Morrison, Brunt (c); Long, Lukaku (Ridgewell 52). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Thomas, Jones, Tamas.

TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Lloris; Walker (Gallas 78), Dawson (c), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Sigurdsson 86), Dembele, Parker Bale; Dempsey, Defoe (Holtby 39). Subs not used: Friedel (gk), Naughton, Huddlestone, Livermore. 


BOOKINGS: ALBION – Dorrans (foul 68).

SENDING-OFF: Popov (spitting 48).

REFEREE: M Clattenburg (Durham).