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Gareth Bale scored a superb late goal to help Tottenham Hotspur claim a narrow 1-0 victory over Southampton at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Southampton were arguably the better side but the Welshman struck to become the first Spurs player to score 20 Barclays Premier League goals in a season since Jurgen Klinsmann in the 1994-95 campaign.
Andre Villas-Boas had a number of first-team players missing for the game but welcomed Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon back into his starting line-up. Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino was without left-back Danny Fox and Gaston Ramirez, who both started three-match bans after being sent off against West Brom last Saturday.
There was a 30-minute delay to kick-off at White Hart Lane due to traffic problems in the surrounding area. The visitors started brightly and Nathaniel Clyne could have put them ahead in the 10th minute of play, following a superb ball from Rickie Lambert. However, the full-back put his half-volley wide with only Hugo Lloris to beat from inside the box.
Spurs captain Michael Dawson had to make a last-gasp interception to prevent Clyne’s low cross from reaching Adam Lallana in front of goal. Lallana was then flagged offside as he attempted to collect a precise pass from Lambert.
Southampton continued to threaten throughout the first half, with Lambert at the heart of every attack. The 31-year-old striker was extremely unfortunate to see his fierce free-kick tipped on to the post by Lloris, as it looked destined to give Southampton the lead in the 35th minute. Jermain Defoe was penalised for a push on Jose Fonte before Spurs squandered a string of set-pieces, which summed up a very frustrating first half for the hosts.
Southampton continued to control proceedings following the restart and Lallana threatened from close range after a brilliant flick over Dawson’s head. Lambert whipped a dangerous free-kick into the Spurs box and a goalbound effort from Lallana was blocked by Benoit Assou-Ekotto as the away side piled on the pressure.
Emmanuel Adebayor replaced Lennon with 30 minutes remaining and immediately set up Spurs’ first real opportunity of the game. The former Arsenal striker back-heeled a lofted Tom Huddlestone pass into the path of Clint Dempsey, but the American blazed his effort high over the bar.
Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc caused a scramble inside the six-yard box after he failed to claim a corner, but Clyne cleared the danger.
Bale then struck a wonderful thumping effort into the bottom corner of Boruc’s net with four minutes left to claim a late victory. The win keeps pressure on rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for UEFA Champions League football.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas: “It was decided by a great moment of individual brilliance. We kept on pushing and Gareth played in three different positions today - as striker, then on the left and on the right to try and get the best out of him.
"He is enjoying his football, but Southampton dealt with him very, very well and were very organised.
"But in the last gasp, they conceded a little bit more space, probably because we wore them out a little bit in the second half and we managed to get the winner.
[On Champions League qualification] "We are going to give it a try. If we win our games, we are there, so we have to push to get this result and hopefully we can achieve that."
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "I do feel we deserved a lot more, we should have got at least a draw, a win would have been well deserved but we go home with nothing. I am disappointed about the result.
"We have competed very well and played very well, we have controlled the game for large periods and I am happy with the performance of my team but we are really angry because we have not got anything from this game."