Gareth Bale 2, Le Toon 1

Posted by Marc Duffy

Gareth Bale gives Tottenham the lead against Newcastle with a free-kickGettyImagesGareth Bale gives Tottenham the lead against Newcastle with a free-kick

It might be a bit harsh to say that Tottenham Hotspur are a one-man team, but based on Saturday's 2-1 win over Newcastle at White Hart Lane, they aren't far from it.

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Newcastle came into the game on a high after back-to-back wins since the arrival of Moussa Sissoko et les amis, although having not won at White Hart Lane, or even scored there since March 2008, it was never going to be easy against a side with their minds on a top-four finish.

The Magpies started the game with the same XI who played in the wins over Aston Villa and Chelsea despite the return of battling Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote from the African Cup of Nations.

Tottenham were again without injured Jermain Defoe. Emmanuel Adebayor's self-awarded extended holiday after Togo were eliminated from the Afcon last weekend meant Andre Villas-Boas had to start the game without a recognised striker.

Clint Dempsey filled the role, and it took Tottenham only one minute to get the ball out to Gareth Bale, who marauded down the left-hand side unchallenged and delivered a low cross from which the make-shift striker should have given the home side the lead.

Dempsey then spun Fabricio Coloccini 25 yards from goal after four minutes, and the Argentine centre-half tripped him. Bale lined up the freekick, and his low, dipping effort ended up just inside Tim Krul's left-hand post to give Spurs the lead. The ball travelled literally a couple of inches over the head of James Perch, who bizarrely made no attempt at blocking it.

For ten minutes Spurs were completely dominant, but once Newcastle managed to gain a foothold in the game they were more than a match.

Coloccini delivered a great cross onto the head of Papiss Cisse, whose movement had left the Spurs centre-halves for dead, but the striker's effort was a terrible one. The Senegal international was to have another very poor, ineffective afternoon.

Spurs new boy Lewis Holtby kept finding space and had a couple of decent chances before Newcastle pulled themselves level.

Sissoko made it two goals and two assists from three games when his pull back to Yoan Gouffran was finished by his fellow Frenchman via the back of Michael Dawson. A good goal and well deserved for Gouffran, who has been exceptional since arriving at Newcastle from Bordeaux.

Unfortunately for Newcastle, the Frenchman's afternoon was to be cut short when a Kyle Walker follow-through from a challenge caught Gouffran just above the shin pad. The forward was stretchered from the field and taken to a local hospital for an X-ray. I'd like to think there was no intent from Walker, but up until Gouffran's injury (53 mins) referee Phil Dowd offered him no protection at all.

Gouffran was fouled several times only for Dowd to either miss it due to being yards off the play (he's a large fellow and struggles for mobility) or wave play on regardless. Giving a bit of a kicking that was ignored by the ref and then leaving the field on a stretcher - welcome to England, Yoan.

There wasn't much between the sides in an open game with both defences looking susceptible to a counterattack, but Newcastle lost some of their momentum after Gouffran's injury.

Time after time again Bale flew at the Newcastle back four, who managed to resist him and his team-mates well. Krul barely had a save to make, although his appalling kicking kept his colleagues nervous. Newcastle countered with attacks of their own, but Hugo Lloris had as little to do as his opposite number.

Adebayor came on to play the last 20 minutes, usually an ominous sign for Newcastle. The home fans were frustrated, and several poor passes at the end of an attack were met with audible groans that grew louder each time.

With only 13 minutes left on the clock, Bale made the breakthrough that would win the game for Spurs. If Newcastle have one stand-out defensive weakness, it is defending the long ball, and when Steven Taylor and Coloccini conspired to miss one of these, Bale was left to accelerate through and score the winner totally unopposed.

From then on Spurs had a host of chances. Steven Caulker went close with a header and Bale had a number of chances to complete his hat trick, but Krul made a couple of great saves and the Welshman's best chance of all fell onto his weak right foot. He thrashed that one high and wide. Bale was excellent - without doubt the best player on the park - but suggesting he is the best player in the world, as a Sky Sports presenter did Saturday, is ludicrous.

Newcastle had one chance to equalise, but unfortunately for them that chance fell to Shola Ameobi. His lack of pace and a decent Lloris save meant all three points were going to Gareth Bale Hotspur.

Yohan Cabaye was very lucky not to receive a red card for his late challenge on Moussa Dembele as the visiting team's frustration became evident.

In summary

If Newcastle had taken a point from Saturday's game, I don't think Tottenham fans would have had too much to complain about, but on the day Bale was the difference between the two sides. All in all it was an improvement on most Newcastle away performances this season and a huge improvement from the 5-0 drubbing in the corresponding fixture last year.

The loss of Gouffran to a long-term injury would be a real shame; he's been fantastic. Sissoko didn't have his best game, but he was never going to following up his dynamic first two games after an international midweek.

Cisse needs to offer more, but unfortunately Newcastle don't have a single player capable of challenging him for a place in the team.

The defeat is a reminder to those who were getting a bit carried away after two great wins that Newcastle are still in a relegation fight. The signs are very positive, but there is still work to be done.

Next up: Metalist visit Newcastle in the Europa League on Thursday before Southampton arrive that Sunday for a huge game at the bottom end of the table.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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