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West Bromwich Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Final score 0-1, Bale sinks ten-man Baggies

A Gareth Bale strike proved enough to break the deadlock for Tottenham after West Brom's Goran Popov saw red for spitting.

Jamie McDonald

Tottenham Hotspur gained a valuable win over West Bromwich Albion thanks to Gareth Bale's strike and a red card for Goran Popov, although an injury to Jermain Defoe will mar the victory.

West Brom's physical strength was a problem for Spurs all game, and they had an early warning when Romelu Lukaku flicked on a ball for Shane Long, who got goalside of Kyle Walker too easily to get a clear sight of goal, although the Irishman's attempt to round Hugo Lloris was let own by a terrible touch, and the chance was gone.

The start of the game largely consisted of both teams running at each other directly, with neither side looking capable or interested in a controlled spell of possession. The end-to-end play suited Spurs' wingers, with Aaron Lennon looking particularly dangerous, but it also allowed Romelu Lukaku to be at his most dangerous. Kyle Walker was again at fault for some poor positioning in allowing the Belgian to craft space for a shot on goal, but Lloris made a fine save to keep the scores level.

Tottenham were enjoying more possession, but it was West Brom who were creating the better chances. Graham Dorrans cut inside to release Shane Long with a fantastic through ball, with Kyle Walker once again at fault through poor positioning, but once again Lloris came to the rescue for Tottenham, making the save from close range.

As the first half wore on, the frantic start to the game settled into a midfield battle, and then disaster struck for Spurs. Jermain Defoe, their only fit out-and-out striker, appeared to twist his ankle and had to be hauled off for Lewis Holtby, with Spurs having no strikers on the bench. In truth, the introduction of Holtby was a bonus for Spurs, giving them the ability to work the ball in tight spaces, but the loss of Defoe was a significant blow. A late Gareth Bale effort, doing brilliantly to get in space before letting fly with a fierce effort which Ben Foster tipped over the bar, was as close as Spurs came all half.

After the second half, Spurs looked to resume as they had been playing, but then came the turning point. Goran Popov and Kyle Walker tussled for a loose ball before having an argument, at the end of which Popov appeared to spit at Walker. Although hardly of a Voller-on-Rijkaard standard, it was by the letter of the law a red card, and Popov was duly dismissed to leave West Brom staring down the barrel.

Of course, it wasn't all good news for Spurs - they have struggled to break down defensive teams this season. Fortunately, after continued probing, they were able to conjure up a bit of individual skill to break the deadlock, coming unsurprisingly through Gareth Bale, the Welshman drifting inside, getting past James Morrison and smashing an unstoppable shot past Foster in the West Brom goal.

The hosts didn't appear to have too much more left in the tank to mount a comeback, 10 men or not, and Spurs held out for the victory fairly comfortably. Although a much-needed win for the visitors, it may not be worth the blow that the loss of Defoe could give them. Emmanuel Adebayor should return soon, of course, although he is hardly in sparkling form. For Spurs, the road to the Champions League looks long.