Wednesday 20 February 2013
Andre Villas-Boas heaped praise on Gareth Bale on Thursday night after the Welshman earned Tottenham Hotspur a 2-1 UEFA Europa League round-of-32, first-leg win over Lyon.
"Gareth is incredible. Not only his all-round game but the ability he has to strike these free-kicks"
Bale scored twice in his side’s 2-1 Barclays Premier League victory against Newcastle United recently and he repeated the trick at White Hart Lane with two free-kicks, the last of which came in the 90th minute.
The 22-year-old put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half-time with a thunderous effort from 35 yards and, after Samuel Umtiti had levelled from the edge of the penalty 10 minutes after the restart with a spectacular half-volley, Bale sealed the winner at the death with another fine set-piece.
"Incredible," said Villas-Boas of a player who has now scored his side’s past six goals. "Not only his all-round game but the ability he has to strike these free-kicks. The ball gains power when he strikes it and it changes direction easily.
"Today we saw not only two great moments but three, because their goal was absolutely fantastic too. Gareth was fantastic."
Chelsea also produced a late winning goal as they overcame Sparta Prague 1-0 in the Czech capital.
"The players have to realise it's another opportunity to win a trophy”
In a hard-fought contest against a side playing their first competitive match since December, Oscar came off the bench to score the only goal of the match with eight minutes remaining. The Brazilian had been on the pitch for less than a minute when he exchanged passes with Eden Hazard before burying a low shot into the far corner.
“Normally you try to change things, [Juan] Mata was doing a great job but he was a bit tired in my opinion," said Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez, who opted to rest John Terry and Ashley Cole. "I needed fresh legs and the quality of Oscar was very good because he made the difference."
The result keeps alive the Blues' hopes of becoming only the fifth club to to win all Europe's main trophies, after Bayern Munich, Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona.
“This is the competition we have to play in now, the players have to realise it's another opportunity to win a trophy,” added Benitez. “If we progress, they will see that, and hopefully we can keep the team playing well and winning games until the end.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side are still in with a good chance of progressing to the next round despite their 2-0 reverse at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg.
"There is no way the tie is over – we are more than capable of getting the goals back"
The Reds passed up several chances to break the deadlock with Luis Suarez squandering four of them, including a shot from five yards out. The hosts took the lead on 70 minutes though Hulk, who had struck a post, before substitute Sergei Semak doubled his side's advantage, leaving Rodgers’ charges with it all to do in the return leg at Anfield.
“There is no way the tie is over - we are more than capable of getting the goals back," said Rodgers. "What gives us hope is that we created enough to win the game. [Suarez] could have had a hat-trick by half-time. It wasn't his night but he's been brilliant for us all season."
Newcastle were also found wanting in front of goal as they were held to a goalless home draw by Metalist Kharkiv.
"A score draw takes us through, so that's some bonus for us to take into the second leg"
Papiss Cisse twice thought he had scored only for his efforts to be ruled out for offside, and the Magpies’ striker also failed to find the target when clean through and again when he was picked out by a Davide Santon centre.
At the other end Cleiton Xavier had a header saved and fired another attempt wide for the Ukrainian club, who came away from the contest relieved that Cisse’s header was saved in the dying moments by Olexandr Goryainov.
Manager Alan Pardew, although disappointed with the result, refused the suggestion that Metalist now have the upper hand. “Looking at the game, it was a very even game but it will be a different game in their stadium and a different agenda,” he said.
“They need to come and beat us and the way we defended tonight we were organised and the pace in the team suggests to me that it's very, very exciting, and the second leg will be the same.
"A score draw takes us through, so that's some bonus for us to take into the second leg."