Bale heroics in vain for Spurs

Gareth Bale scored a stunning goal as Tottenham beat Sunderland

1-0 at White Hart Lane, but they missed out on a place in the top

four as Arsenal also won on the final day of the season.

Spurs needed to win to stand any chance of qualifying for the

UEFA Champions League but it looked like they would be frustrated

until Bale rounded off a wonderful individual campaign with another

special strike in the 90th minute.

However, Arsenal’s victory at Newcastle United ensured that

Tottenham would have to settle for a fifth-place finish despite a

record points haul in the Premier League.

The margin of Spurs’ victory could have been more convincing had

they been granted any of several penalty appeals, while Sunderland

also defended doggedly and Simon Mignolet pulled off a series of

fine saves.

The onus was on Tottenham to take the attack to a Sunderland

side whose Premier League survival had been guaranteed by Wigan

Athletic’s loss to Arsenal, and the first half was dominated by the

hosts at White Hart Lane without reward.

It looked like the breakthrough would come in the 21st minute

when Bale was sent tumbling in the area by a push from Sebastian

Larsson, but instead of giving a penalty referee Andre Marriner

felt that the Welshman had dived and issued a yellow card which

sparked a furious reaction from the player and the crowd.

Spurs had another appeal for a spot-kick waved away when Bale’s

shot from close range crashed into the arm of Jack Colback, while

Mignolet made decent saves from Emmanuel Adebayor, Tom Huddlestone

and a Bale free-kick.

Sunderland were disciplined in defence but only broke forward

sporadically, with Hugo Lloris showing quick reflexes at his near

post to repel a close-range flick from Connor Wickham.

Lloris again had to be alert to pull off a fine save down to his

left from Danny Graham at the start of the second half after lazy

play from Huddlestone in midfield had allowed Sunderland to pinch

the ball.

Tottenham then had another shout for a penalty waved away by the

referee when Carlos Cuellar looked to handle Adebayor’s shot as he

slipped to the floor, and the feeling of frustration grew as news

filtered through of Arsenal’s lead against Newcastle.

Colback made two goal-line clearances to deny Scott Parker and

then Aaron Lennon in quick succession, and a number of chances came

and went as Mignolet continued to impress and Sunderland’s whole

team worked hard.

The Black Cats were reduced to ten men in the 75th minute,

however, when David Vaughan was shown a red card for a second

bookable offence.

Spurs finally netted the goal they deserved when Bale cut back

inside 25 yards from goal and fizzed a spectacular, curling shot

past a despairing Mignolet and into the top corner.

The final few moments were spent with the fans desperately

wishing to hear that Newcastle had pegged back Arsenal, and when

that news never materialised it left the taste of victory very

bittersweet.