Gareth Bale’s second Tottenham stint finally flickered into life against Wolfsberger and Jose Mourinho hinted he’ll use the him in West Ham grudge match… the under-fire Welshman HAS to use this as a turning point or face being out in the cold for good!
- Gareth Bale scored and assisted for Spurs in the Europa League on Thursday
- Bale impressed during his 64-minute outing as Tottenham beat Wolfsberger 4-1
- The 31-year-old returned to Spurs on loan amid great expectation this season
- Yet, he has only started just two Premier League games under Jose Mourinho
- However, he could be handed a rare opportunity to start on Sunday at West Ham
It may have been in European club football’s second-string competition and it may have been against lesser opposition, but Gareth Bale gave a timely reminder of the quality he still possesses in one move.
Running in behind the Wolfsberger defence from a Matt Doherty through-ball, nothing more than a cross into the box looked on for Bale.
With left back Jonathan Scherzer in pursuit of him, the Welshman left him in his wake with an exquisite chop from his right foot on to his left.
Gareth Bale reminded everyone of his world-class talent for Tottenham in the Europa League
The on-loan forward scored one and assisted another as Spurs beat Wolfsberger on Thursday
He celebrates with his team-mates after scoring their second in their 4-1 last-32 first-leg win
By the time the sliding Scherzer was back on his feet the ball was in the back of the net as Tottenham’s No 9 whipped a thunderous effort beyond the helpless Alexander Kofler.
It was a moment Tottenham fans had envisioned on a regular basis this season as the club legend returned on loan from Real Madrid in September 2020.
Sadly though for Bale and Spurs supporters this moment of magic has been a rarity in an underwhelming campaign for both player and club so far.
Expected to form a devastating trio with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in attack this term, Bale has had to make do with watching the tantalising trio become the dynamic duo by often missing out on their starting XI.
He was handed only his 11th start of the campaign on Thursday night but he took his chance as Tottenham won 4-1 against Wolfsberger in their Europa League last-32 first-leg encounter.
As well his own strike, he provided the assist for Son Heung-min to open the scoring early on
GARETH BALE’S SPURS STATS THIS SEASON
Games Played: 17
Games Started: 11
Minutes Played: 867
Chances created: 14
As well as his 28th-minute goal he also provided the assist for their opener with a first-time cross into the box for Son to head home after 13 minutes.
His evening’s work ended shortly after the hour mark when Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho brought him off for Erik Lamela.
It wasn’t because of a poor performance though, in fact it was due to a bright one. By this point the north London side were 3-1 up against their Austrian opponents. Bale had done his job and with a tough London derby on Sunday midday at bitter rivals West Ham next, Mourinho wanted to preserve him.
‘One of the reasons why he left the pitch by minute 64 was to try to have him available for the next match,’ Mourinho said post-match on Thursday.
‘By taking him off at that minute we managed to save him a few miles in his legs. I know the match is Sunday at 12 o’clock but I believe he has a chance to play the match.
‘For him it was important to play and not to play the 90 minutes.’
Bale’s evening lasted 64 minutes before he was replaced by Erik Lamela with Spurs 3-1 ahead
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho brought him off with Bale likely to start vs West Ham on Sunday now
The Portuguese’s words show a huge upturn in Bale’s fortunes in just three weeks.
On January 31, the forward was handed just his second Premier League start of the season in an away trip to Brighton. With Tottenham talisman Kane injured, this was the perfect opportunity for him to step up to the plate.
However, much like his frontline team-mates Bale played poorly and was substituted shortly after the hour mark in a surprising 1-0 defeat.
Four days later, Bale was an unused substitute during their 1-0 loss at home to London rivals Chelsea – despite the hosts searching for an equaliser.
As exclusively revealed by Sportsmail afterwards, Bale’s application was being questioned by Tottenham amid growing disappointment over the Wales star’s return to the club.
Bale played poorly at Brighton – as he was handed his second Premier League start of the term
Upon agreeing his return to north London in the summer, Spurs agreed to pay in the region of £250,000 per week of his mammoth £600,000-per-week salary.
And there was acknowledgement that Bale’s high-profile return had not provided value for money – but Mourinho and his staff remained hopeful of an upturn in his form.
Sportsmail understood there was particular disappointment at his work-rate against Brighton. Indeed, even the Seagulls players were said to be surprised at his apparent lack of industry shown by Bale during the clash at the Amex Stadium.
After the defeat by Chelsea, Bale was given the same treatment just three days later when Spurs welcomed West Brom in the top flight – playing the role of an unused substitute in a 2-0 victory.
The 31-year-old was omitted altogether from Tottenham’s FA Cup squad for their trip to Everton on February 10.
He was an unused substitute in a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea amid fears over his lack of application
He was dealt the same fate just three days later as Spurs won 2-0 vs West Bromwich Albion
‘Gareth is not on the bench because he wasn’t happy with his training session yesterday,’ Mourinho said when asked for clarification on Bale’s omission.
‘I wouldn’t say an injury, not at all, but some feelings he wasn’t happy with, so it was better for him to stay back and to be working with the sports science guys.’
However, Mourinho’s sentiments were not in unison with Bale who contradicted his manager on social media. Mourinho was reportedly left fuming after his No 9’s ill-timed social media post while Tottenham were travelling up to Merseyside for their FA Cup fifth-round 5-4 defeat.
Taking to Instagram, Bale wrote: ‘Good session today’ accompanied with an arm-curl emoji and a picture of him in action in training.
With relations seemingly strained, a glimmer of hope at those mending appeared on Saturday when he was brought on as the third and final substitute during their 3-0 defeat at Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Bale posted ‘Good session today’ despite being left out of their FA Cup squad vs Everton
Mourinho claimed that the forward ‘was not happy’ in training before their 5-4 fifth-round loss
Bale was responsible for the only moment of inspiration for the visitors when he took possession from Rodri then beat three men before shooting and forcing a fine stop from Ederson.
It was a moment which saw a breathtaking combination of speed and skill and a reminder of what he can do.
Talent isn’t just a factor in a Mourinho team though, application is too – and Bale ticked both of these boxes against Wolfsberger.
In the first half he boasted 100 per cent in shot conversion and passing accuracy, created the most chances (three), made the most tackles (four) and completed two out of his three take-ons. This was all along with a goal and assist.
In the second half he came close to adding to his tally with a fine left-footed strike that was well saved by Kofler.
The 31-year-old came close to scoring against Manchester City with this shot after a fine run
We may be in mid-February but there is still a lot of football to be played and Bale must kick-on and seize his opportunity. Spurs are battling for a top-four position, look set to reach the Europa League last-16 stages and have a League Cup final to look forward to against Manchester City on April 25 at Wembley.
With Mourinho hinting at him earning only his third Premier League start of the season on Sunday, the forward has to replicate Thursday’s outing against tougher opposition – something he can do.
He has the backing of his team-mates as evidenced by Son’s words post-match.
‘I have a really close relationship with him,’ Son said of Bale after the victory in Hungary.
‘I’m very happy he’s getting game-time and scored a goal and got an assist. I really enjoy playing with him.’
Bale came close to scoring two on Thursday night when this left-footed strike was well saved
Son hailed Bale after their Europa League last-32 first-leg win saying he likes playing with him
Bale was delighted to get among the goals on Thursday too – his fifth strike in 17 games this season.
‘We had the mindset of coming to score as many goals as we could and get some confidence,’ he told reporters.
‘Obviously we haven’t won many lately so it’s important to get a win to breed confidence. Hopefully, this is the start of a good run.
‘It was good [to score]. I just chopped inside and hit it. It’s nice to get on the scoresheet to help the team.’
The only way he’ll be able to help the team is by continuing to perform. It may have only been Wolfsberger but it’s a start for a four-time Champions League winner.
The question is now can he kick-on from this display, starting at the London Stadium on Sunday? Bale will be determined too.
Bale must kick-on now and seize his opportunity as Spurs look to finish the season strongly
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