Gareth Bale, who played fantastically throughout the night, took his tally for the season to 15 league goals as he slammed a 35-yard rocket into the top corner past West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Welshman had himself put Spurs ahead in the 13th minute from the edge of the penalty area before Andy Carroll equalized with a penalty 12 minutes later.
West Ham took the lead in the second half when Joe Cole tucked the ball in to the far corner from a tight angle, but Gylfi Sigurdsson equalized from close range 14 minutes from time.
The game seemed to be heading for a draw before Bale struck at the death to move Spurs up to third place in the race for the Champions League, two points ahead of Chelsea and four points above north London rivals, Arsenal. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce made four changes to the side that lost against Aston Villa, with James Collins returning in central defense and recalls for Guy Demel, Gary O’Neil, and Matt Jarvis with Mark Noble ruled out through injury.
Hugo Lloris was restored as Tottenham’s goalkeeper in place of Brad Friedel as Andre Villas-Boas went for height in the defense, playing Jan Vertonghen at left-back with Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker paired in the center.
Before kick-off, West Ham honored Bobby Moore on the 20th anniversary of his death. The World Cup-winning captain’s name rang around Upton Park during a minute’s applause with the former defender’s family on the touchline. It led to a blood-and-thunder opening to the game as tackles flew in and the rival fans goaded each other on a crisp, floodlight evening in east London.
Allardyce identified Bale as the man to stop before the game, so he must have been furious with the ease in which the Welshman put Spurs ahead in the 13th minute. Demel’s lazy pass gave possession straight to Bale 25 yards from goal and the Tottenham man worked the ball on to his left foot before firing low across goal into the bottom corner.
Yet West Ham responded and drew level in the 25th minute as Carroll scored just his third goal of the season. The on-loan Liverpool striker won the spot-kick himself as he went down under a challenge from former Hammer Scott Parker, whose tackle was reckless despite him getting a touch on the ball. Carroll made no mistake as he rammed the ball into the top corner from 12 yards.
West Ham had goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to thank for keeping them in the game as he made two athletic saves on either side of the break to keep out almost identical headers from Caulker. The Finn then made a brilliant double save in the 56th minute, tipping substitute Sigurdsson’s curling shot on to the post and reacting quickly to save Emmanuel Adebayor’s header when the Spurs striker should have scored the rebound.
Two minutes later, the hosts took the lead. Joey O’Brien played a long pass to Cole, who stayed onside before bringing the ball down and somehow turning it into the far corner from a tight angle.
Jaaskelainen then produced more heroics with his best save of the night, touching Bale’s curling effort on to the crossbar at full stretch. Not to be upstaged, Lloris made a superb stop of his own to deny Taylor after the West Ham substitute was put through on goal by Cole’s clever pass.
Fourteen minutes from time, Tottenham leveled with the scrappiest of goals. West Ham completely failed to deal with a free-kick delivered from the right by Bale and after the ball pinballed around the penalty area, Sigurdsson was able to scuff home from two yards.
Then as the clock ticked to 90 minutes, Bale demanded the ball in central midfield, shifted it on to his left foot and rammed a shot into the top corner so powerful that even Jaaskelainen could do nothing. Simply stunning and possibly the goal of the season so far!
Tottenham are currently in 4th place with 51 points, behind Manchester Untied, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Only 1 point separates them and Rafa Benitez’s squad, while the Spurs have yet to play their 28th match at the North London Derby tomorrow. Meanwhile, West Ham stand in a disappointing 12th place, tied with Stoke City and Fulham but losing to both on goal difference.
Written by Pierre Sanz