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Gareth Bale returned to haunt his former employers as Tottenham Hotspur held on to win at Southampton.
Spurs had not even scored on their five previous trips to St Mary's but dominated the first half on the South Coast. Bale gave them the lead just 15 minutes into the match against the club with whom he began his career, heading home on his return to action following the birth of his first child.
The North London side doubled their advantage as half-time approached through Clint Dempsey, who directed home into an empty net after Jose Fonte's clearance off the line fell straight into his path. Southampton re-emerged for the second period and reduced the deficit in the 66th minute when Jay Rodriguez lashed home his first Barclays Premier League goal. The home side continued to press for a leveller as the clock wound down but could not find an elusive second goal, much to the frustration of manager Nigel Adkins.
The hosts came into the game with just one win to their name since their return to the top flight. Their vulnerability was evident after just three minutes when Aaron Lennon prodded wide after a Jan Vertonghen cross caused confusion at the back.
It was a quiet opening at St Mary's but one in which Spurs looked the more threatening. Jermain Defoe came close to giving Tottenham a 14th-minute lead after connecting with a Kyle Walker cutback and a minute later Southampton's defence was breached by a familiar face.
Tom Huddlestone clipped a weighted ball into the box and Bale met the ball with gusto to arrow a header past Artur Boruc. The winger kept his celebrations to a minimum in respect to his former employers, whom he almost punished again with a driven cross that Danny Fox had to turn behind.
Bale then headed over and Defoe blazed over as Tottenham continued to search for a second. Southampton, by comparison, were unable to get away a shot in the first half. The first period was made worse for Saints six minutes before the break as Lennon ran at the defence and played through Defoe.
The England forward's effort was cleared off the line by the Fonte but straight into the path of Dempsey to bundle home.
After half-time Saints looked rejuvenated, with Jason Puncheon putting an acrobatic effort just wide soon after the restart. Fox fired a long-range effort over for the home side, who were fortunate not to concede another when Walker burst through on goal only to screw wide.
Huddlestone was the next to put wide for Spurs, before Adkins brought on Emmanuel Mayuka in a bid to claw their way back. Rodriguez nodded wide shortly afterwards and Maya Yoshida saw a header blocked behind from a free-kick.
Saints reduced the deficit in the 66th minute. Brad Friedel did excellently to stop Fonte's goal-bound flick from Fox's corner, but could do nothing to prevent Rodriguez smashing in the rebound.
The former Burnley striker came close to doubling his tally three minutes later with a half-volley, before William Gallas did well to deflect a Rickie Lambert shot behind.
The Spurs captain had to be alert to clear a Adam Lallana cross out of danger as Saints upped the ante. Rodriguez fired wide from 20 yards as the home side pushed for a leveller, with substitute Guly do Prado and Morgan Schneiderlin seeing late efforts blocked as Spurs held out for three points.
|24 Feb 2013||v Newcastle (A)|
|02 Feb 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|10 Nov 2012||v Swansea (H)|
|12 May 2013||v Sunderland (A)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Arsenal (H)|
|16 Jan 2013||v Chelsea (A)|