By Greg Stobart
On a night in which West Ham remembered Bobby Moore, the greatest player in their club’s history, Gareth Bale took another step becoming a Tottenham legend as he scored two goals in his side’s sensational 3-2 win at Upton Park.
Bale saved the best moment for last, a showstopping 30-yard screamer in the last minute that flew into the top corner to take Spurs up to third in the Premier League table as the race for Champions League football hots up.
The assessment of West Ham manager Sam Allardyce may have been brief but it hit the point. “We’ve been beaten by Gareth Bale,” he said.
|RONALDO 07-08 V BALE 12-13
|RONALDO GAMES, 2007-08
RONALDO GOALS, 2007-08
BALE GAMES, 2012-13
BALE GOALS, 2012-13
A dramatic game then swung back and forth as West Ham took the lead through an Andy Carroll penalty and a well-taken Joe Cole strike before Spurs substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson scrambled in to make it 2-2 when the Hammers failed to deal with a Bale free-kick.
Then Bale produced his moment of magic, just the latest in a catalogue that has seen him score 19 goals in all competitions for Spurs this season, 15 in the Premier League. Only Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez have scored more than the 23-year-old in the league and those three will surely head the voting in the player of the year awards at the end of the campaign.
It is since the turn of the year that Bale has really come in to his own and broken through in a manner similar to that in which his idol Cristiano Ronaldo established himself as one of the best players in the world in the 2007-08 season.
Bale still has some way to go to reach Ronaldo’s level of ability and achievement, but he is unstoppable at the moment - and he knows it. The man who once had to wait 24 matches for a win in a Spurs shirt has scored eight goals in his last six Tottenham appearances, three of which have been late winners.
He is single-handedly leading Tottenham’s charge and, like Ronaldo, seems to thrive on the challenge, to flourish as the main man after being given a free role by manager Andre Villas-Boas. Put simply, he knows he is the difference.
The comparisons with Ronaldo are no longer a method of mockery. At the same age in 2008-09, in Ronaldo’s sixth and final season at Manchester United before an £80 million transfer to Real Madrid, the Portuguese scored 18 league goals. Bale will expect to better that goal tally before the end of the season.
Whether on the left, right or, as his most often the case these days, down the middle, Bale is a goal threat wherever he picks up the ball. While his potential has been evident ever since he tore apart then-European champions Inter Milan in 2010, he has now found consistency in his play and appears to realise he can be a match-winner on a weekly basis.
That was evident in his last-gasp strike against West Ham. It was as if he knew he would score as he stormed through the midfield then, after complaining that he was fouled, immediately got up and demanded the ball. A few seconds later he was at the centre of a huge bundle with the Tottenham bench.
Just like Ronaldo, Bale is almost the prototype modern footballer: fast, powerful, skillful, a wonderful striker of the ball and someone who works diligently on his game, as evidenced by the recent improvement in his free-kick taking.
There is a chance that Bale and Ronaldo could be team-mates by the start of next season but the Spurs man is clearly enjoying the responsibility at White Hart Lane and has taken his game up to a new level in the last two months.
Tottenham may well be a ‘one-man team’ these days. But what a man to have.
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