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Gareth Bale scored yet another brilliant last-gasp winner to move Tottenham Hotspur up to third in the Barclays Premier League after they beat West Ham United 3-2 in a cracking London derby at Upton Park.
Jussi Jaaskelainen rolled back the years to keep West Ham in the game for most of the clash, but there was nothing the 37-year-old could do to stop Bale's blistering 25-yard shot flying in to the top corner with just 10 seconds remaining. Bale put Tottenham ahead in the first half, but Andy Carroll scored a penalty after being brought down in the box by Scott Parker.
Joe Cole thought he had grabbed the Hammers a morale-boosting win with a goal against the club he almost joined last season, but substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised and Bale provided the killer blow in the final minute.
West Ham dominated for large parts of what was a pumped-up derby, but as has been the case in so many games of late, there was always the chance that Bale could pull off another bit of magic to settle the game. The victory meant that Andre Villas-Boas’s team have dislodged his former employers Chelsea from third place.
West Ham used the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore's death as an inspiration to start the game well. Led out by three of Moore's grandchildren, the Hammers started in combative mode, with Gary O'Neil clattering in to Emmanuel Adebayor. Mousa Dembele seemed just as pumped for the occasion, taking out Kevin Nolan to earn a booking.
West Ham were on top for the first 10 minutes, with Mohamed Diame and Matt Jarvis both drawing saves from Hugo Lloris. Bale shot wide early on and teed up Aaron Lennon, whose shot took a deflection. Bale then stunned the West Ham faithful with the opener after 12 minutes.
The Welshman, operating up front alongside Adebayor, gained a yard on James Collins and another two Hammers defenders before firing across Jaaskelainen into the back of the net. Bale led a rampaging Spurs break soon after but he shot tamely, much to the frustration of the unmarked Jan Vertonghen, who was screaming for the ball at the far post.
Soon after Spurs were made to pay thanks to Carroll's second goal of 2013. Parker put in a two-footed challenge on Carroll in the box and Howard Webb pointed to the spot. The former Newcastle United striker picked himself up and smashed the ball past Lloris.
The crowd lapped up what was turning in to a thrilling end-to-end contest. West Ham remained on top and would have gone ahead just before the break had Kyle Walker not put in a brilliant block to deny Jarvis. Bale still looked capable of changing the course back in to Tottenham's favour, though, the Welshman cracking one of his trademark swirling free-kicks just wide.
Spurs almost took the lead again just after the break when Vertonghen's shot flew off Guy Demel's leg, but Jaaskelainen scrambled across his line and tipped wide. The big Finn then saved brilliantly to tip Sigurdsson's shot on to a post and he quickly regained his ground to save Adebayor's follow-up.
West Ham still had the majority of possession and they made it count with their second just before the hour. Cole timed his run to perfection, gaining two yards on Steven Caulker before slotting past Lloris and removing his shirt in a wild celebration. Sam Allardyce almost spilled his cup of tea in celebration on the bench.
Spurs threw everything at the hosts and had it not been for another two outstanding saves by Jaaskelainen from Bale and Caulker, they would have retaken the lead. Lloris pulled off a top-drawer save of his own when Matt Taylor beat the offside trap and fired on goal. The save proved crucial as Tottenham went up the other end and equalised.
West Ham failed to deal with Bale's free-kick, a melee ensued in the box, but Sigurdsson held his nerve to poke past Jaaskelainen from close range. Jaaskelainen pulled off another two top-class saves to deny Adebayor and Sigurdsson as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes.
Then with 10 seconds left Bale picked himself up after being flattened by a tackle, collected the ball off substitute Tom Carroll and let fly with an audacious 25-yard bullet that beat Jaaskelainen.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "It is one of the 'worldies' he [Bale] continues to produce. You think at some stage he has run out of them but he has not. I think that is the best one.
"In the end, the way he has hit it, there is not an awful lot you can do about it. We made a terrific go of it. It was at a crucial stage when Matt Taylor got through one on one and their ‘keeper made good save, we want to be scoring that.
"At 3-1 there is no way back for them. They've got the goal then they scored a 'worldie'. We have been beaten by Gareth Bale really. The lads caused them a lot of problems."
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "[Bale] is an unbelievable, super talent. You have seen him this season go to another level and make a difference every game. Tremendous talent for sure."
"We just have to keep getting points. We want to get the most we can get. Obviously the distance isn't big to second.
"We face Arsenal Sunday and it is a big opportunity to build the distance to them and that is first on our minds. Our priority is to establish our position and hopefully get more comfortable distance to Chelsea and Arsenal.
"It's going to be a game full of passion. To put Arsenal seven points away is a better margin, but it is not finished, seven points is not enough."
|02 Mar 2013||v Stoke (A)|
|17 Mar 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|30 Mar 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|07 Apr 2013||v Liverpool (A)|
|13 Apr 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|17 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|