Bale saves Spurs' blushes in win
Tottenham Hotspur overcame an injury to Jermain Defoe to win 1-0 at 10-man West Bromwich Albion on Sunday and close to within a point of third-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Defoe's injury means Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas could come to regret not signing an additional striker in the January transfer window, but Gareth Bale showed he knows where the goal is with a superb 67th-minute winner.
It capped another man-of-the-match display by the 23-year-old winger and enabled Spurs to capitalise on the dismissal of West Brom left-back Goran Popov for spitting early in the second half.
Spurs have now gone eight games without defeat and are three points clear of Everton in the fourth and final Champions League position, while Steve Clarke's West Brom remain ninth.
The away side started the game like a team determined to end a run of three successive draws and they made the early running at The Hawthorns.
Clint Dempsey headed an Aaron Lennon cross wide at the back post in the eighth minute, while West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster had to race to the edge of his box to prevent Defoe from latching onto a header from Bale.
The hosts possessed plenty of menace on the counter-attack, however, and Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to produce a smart block in the 21st minute after Graham Dorrans released Shane Long with a beautifully weighted pass.
Bale blazed a free-kick over the bar before the moment that Spurs fans have been dreading arrived, with Defoe forced to limp off in the 39th minute after innocuously twisting his left ankle in midfield.
New signing Lewis Holtby came on in Defoe's place and the half ended with Foster having to tip a dipping effort from Bale over the crossbar.
The visitors' victory chances improved significantly in the second minute of the second period when Popov was shown a straight red card for spitting at Spurs' right-back Kyle Walker.
After a heated exchange between the pair, Popov seemed to spit in Walker's direction and referee Mark Clattenburg had no hesitation in sending him off, despite the Macedonian's protestations.
Popov's dismissal obliged West Brom to replace striker Romelu Lukaku with defender Liam Ridgewell and the hosts were quickly forced backwards, with Foster denying first Holtby and then the irrepressible Bale.
The Welshman would not be denied for long, however, and mid-way through the second half he broke the deadlock with a goal almost as good as his slalom through the Norwich City defence on Wednesday.
Collecting a square pass from Walker, he skipped inside James Morrison on the threshold of the box before dispatching a rasping drive that left Foster clutching at thin air.
An injury-time free-kick for West Brom saw Foster venture into the Spurs area but he was denied a chance to steal Bale's thunder by a confident catch from his opposite number, Lloris.