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Premier League

  • 1 February 2012
  • • 01:15
  • • White Hart Lane, London
  • Referee: L. Probert
  • • Attendance: 35801

Tottenham 3-1 Wigan: Gareth Bale brace & Luke Modric strike see hosts extend lead over top four rivals

Spurs' flying winger returned to the team and looked back to his best combining with the Croatian playmaker to capitalise on a disappointing display from Roberto Martinez's side

Majestic displays from Luka Modric and Gareth Bale gave Tottenham the impetus to return to winning ways in the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Wigan.

Bale's first goal came courtesy of a brilliant Modric pass and fine individual skill from the Welshman before Modric doubled the lead, collecting a failed Wigan clearance and firing low past Al-Habsi.

The former Southampton man's second goal was simple, yet clinical, as he shifted the ball onto his left from the corner of the box and drilled past Al-Habsi.

Wigan have previous at White Hart Lane, winning 1-0 last year but receiving their record defeat in a 9-1 loss the year before. But, aside from Manchester City, only Roberto Martinez's side have beaten Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the past two years and was an omen that perhaps would have given hope to the Latics going into the game.

Setting up in a 5-2-2-1, Martinez intended to let Spurs play in their half and stifle any attacking thrust. To little avail, Tottenham's control in possession and midfield movement were enough to unlock a defence that included new boy Jean Beausejour at left wing-back.

Spurs fashioned the first chance of the game after just five minutes but Younes Kaboul's header from a corner was pushed away by Al-Habsi at the far post.

Tottenham were allowed plenty of possession and inevitably created chances from then on. Niko Kranjcar, operating off the right flank, had license to drift inside and his early movement proved tricky for Wigan's defenders to follow.

After Rafael Van der Vaart's flick to Emmanuel Adebayor was knocked down in the area, Kranjcar timed his run perfectly. With the goal at his mercy, Kranjcar opted for the dummy, before cutting the ball back to Modric on the edge of the box. However his Croatian team-mate curled the ball high and wide.

Kranjcar continued to probe, finding space on the left-hand side of the box as he alternated flanks with Bale. The recalled Croat found space for a shot on 20 minutes but drove into Al-Habsi's arms – who predictably was the much busier goalkeeper.

A pattern had emerged and it was an identical Van der Vaart corner on the 23rd minute that was met by Kaboul again – this time from more central. Al-Habsi gave up on his goal-bound header but, to the relief of the away side, James McCarthy dropped to the goal-line to hook to safety.

The tide kept coming though and it wasn't long before the home fans had reason to cheer. A counter-attack had slowed in part because of Kranjcar's hold up play, however, as the gaps around them closed, Modric utilised that famed vision to spy Bale at the back-post. His sublime driven pass was trapped on the chest by the Welshman as he ghosted in behind Beausejour, volleying the ball past Al-Habsi at his near post.

Bale's performance was electric from here. Drifting from the left to the centre and the right flank periodically, Wigan could not cope with his movement. The Tottenham winger broke from the halfway line following a beautiful Kranjcar pass to set him free, though his end product was struck to close to Wigan's stopper.

By 33 minutes, Spurs were coasting. Benoit Assou-Ekotto advanced down the left and fed Modric on the edge of the Wigan box. His control initially escaped him and Gary Caldwell stabbed the ball into the recovering Jordi Gomez. The deflection wasn't kind though and allowed Modric to swivel and drill a fine strike past Al Habsi into the bottom right corner.

With a dominant lead in place, Tottenham kept composed and rode the wave of cheer to the half-time whistle. The only downside being the withdrawal of Van der Vaart, who succumbed to injury between goals.

Welsh wizard | Bale celebrates giving Spurs a comfortable lead

It was evident from the first minute of the second period that Martinez had made his team aware of how poor their performance had been. Franco Di Santo raced forward and clattered Modric, making it clear Spurs wouldn't be afforded as much time this half.

It worked initially. Victor Moses had Wigan's first real chance early in the second half, taking advantage of some lax defending to cut inside and arrow a shot just over Brad Friedel's crossbar.

Martinez's side certainly had more of the ball and Tottenham were a bit more relaxed and consequently sloppy in possession, at least up until the hour mark. That was as good as it got for Wigan.

A Modric cross-field pass to Assou-Ekotto shifted the nature of Spurs' attack and the left-back gathered the ball before knocking it inside to Bale. The Welshman, who had moved to the left corner of the box, took a touch, shifted the ball onto his left foot and drove the ball hard and true beyond Al-Habsi's despairing left hand. The stadium erupted once more and Tottenham could coast home to a valuable three points.

There was a sour note with 20 minutes to play as Assou-Ekotto's loose control led a studs-first lunge at Di Santo. The Wigan striker was floored by the rake down his shin and duly replaced by Connor Sammon.

This provided a pause for Martinez to collect the composure of his side and substitute James McArthur soon pulled one back for the visitors. His left footed strike appeared to take a deflection and loop over Friedel, nestling into the net via the back post.

Wigan pressed for a second and Friedel was called into action a number of times but Tottenham held on and deserved the win.

For Tottenham this was a performance that will inspire confidence ahead of a daunting trip to Anfield next week. Bale and Modric showed their class in taking Wigan apart and will no doubt relish the prospect of repeating the feat on Monday. For Redknapp, he couldn't have asked for a better tonic to his current off-pitch predicament.

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