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Gareth Bale helped Tottenham Hotspur climb to third in the Barclays Premier League table with victory at Swansea City. The Welshman teed up Jan Vertonghen for Spurs' opener in the seventh minute, before brilliantly rifling home his 27th of the season for club and country to double the lead.
Michu got his 20th of the campaign after the break to set up a frantic final 20 minutes, but Andre Villas-Boas' side held out to get their Champions League push firmly back on track after back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Fulham.
Swansea have lost their last three since reaching the 40-point mark with victory over Newcastle United, but Michael Laudrup's men will feel they deserved a point after a rousing fightback.
Seven mintues in, Bale, who scored here for his country in midweek, produced a sublime lofted pass to catch Dwight Tiendalli out of position and play in Vertonghen. The Belgian brought the ball down and slotted beyond the advancing Michel Vorm to give the visitors the lead.
Swansea could have been two goals down six minutes later. Mousa Dembele put Emmanuel Adebayor through for the Togo striker to outpace Ashley Williams, only to fire at Vorm.
But the lead was doubled in the 21st minute courtesy of a supreme finish from Bale. Vertonghen found the forward on the edge of the Swansea box, where he took one touch before dispatching an unstoppable strike past Vorm.
Swansea were stunned and began to exert their first real spell of pressure, with Nathan Dyer and Tiendalli getting away shots on goal. Dyer missed a chance on 35 minutes. The winger was picked out by Tiendalli but smashed his header against the bar from just four yards.
Michu also headed wide from another excellent Tiendalli centre as Swansea targeted full Kyle Naughton, but Spurs reached half-time with their two-goal advantage intact.
Swansea enjoyed further pressure after the interval and Brad Friedel, playing due to Hugo Lloris's knee injury, had to be alert to deny Michu after Wayne Routledge had fed him from a quick free-kick.
Their attacking ambitions left the hosts stretched at the back and former Swansea player Gylfi Sigurdsson drew a sharp stop from Vorm with a wicked dipping strike. Michu then wasted another excellent opportunity as he headed wide from the sort of chance he has made a habit of taking during his first season in English football.
But the Spaniard gave the Swans hope as he found the net for the first time since the Capital One Cup final on 70 minutes. Substitute Ki Sung-yueng delivered a superb corner, and Michu made no mistake as he directed a header in off the far post.
Bale raced up the other end, before rolling a shot against the outside of the post, but it was brief respite for Spurs. Dyer blasted over and Bale denied his former Southampton team-mate with a superb block. It proved crucial as Spurs held out for a valuable victory.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup: "They had a very good start but both goals showed a player of Gareth Bale's quality can make the difference. With the first we could have done better even if it was a good pass and finish. But the second goal was just a fantastic finish by a very good player."
"There are different levels of players, even at this level. There are good players, very good players and exceptional players and they are the ones who sometimes out of nothing can make a difference.
"If you see his goal today, or his goal against West Ham, it was not even a chance. He is a player who makes the difference and you are lucky if you have that. Not many teams do. If you take Bale out, without him the teams were at the same level.
"After the two goals we reacted well and we should have scored one [through Nathan Dyer] that was harder to miss than score. We talked about it at half-time, we felt they could be tired after having so many players on international duty and in the second half we dominated, we scored one and got close, but not close enough, to a second."
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "When there are so many things that go well for the team it is hard to single out individuals but Gareth is a world-class player offensively and defensively, as he showed when he made the block at the end to prevent Swansea getting a draw.
"But the whole team deserve credit because coming here after two league defeats and playing the way we did is never easy. We spoke at half-time about trying to get the third goal to put it beyond doubt but we couldn't and they did well to come back.
"We showed great determination and the winning mentality that surrounds us to come away and hold on for a great win from home and put ourselves back on track."
|06 Apr 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|20 Apr 2013||v Southampton (H)|
|28 Apr 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|04 May 2013||v Man City (H)|
|07 May 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|12 May 2013||v Man Utd (A)|