Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wolfsberger 1-4 Tottenham: Bale impresses as first-half masterclass puts Spurs in control

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 18 Feb 2021


Tottenham took control of their Europa League round-of-32 tie against Wolfsberger with ease as Gareth Bale impressed in a 4-1 victory in Budapest on Thursday.

On the same ground where Liverpool beat RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday, Spurs dismantled their Austrian opponents with a superb first-half display.

Bale was integral, teeing up Son Heung-min’s opener before doubling Spurs’ lead with a fine finish.

Lucas Moura put Spurs further ahead and even though Moussa Sissoko’s lapse amid a disjointed second-half performance from Spurs allowed Michael Liendl to pull one back from the penalty spot, substitute Carlos Vinicius restored the three-goal cushion.

Jose Mourinho hoped “the winner of the last Puskas award” would score in the stadium named after the Hungary great, and he got his wish 13 minutes in.

Having already arrowed a shot just wide, Son’s stooping header crept through the legs of a defender and into the bottom-left corner.

Handed a rare start, Dele Alli engineered a chance for himself with some superb skill soon after, but Alexander Kofler made a strong save.

Yet Kofler could do little to prevent Bale making it 2-0 – the Wales forward leaving Jonathan Scherzer in his wake before lashing in from a tight angle. 

That was part of a frantic six-minute period which led to another Spurs goal.

Hugo Lloris denied Wolfsberger at the other end when he tipped Dario Vizinger’s header onto the bar, before Spurs struck when Lucas weaved his way through a crowd and slotted in after a pass from Harry Winks.

Spurs were cruising until the 54th minute, as Sissoko felled Christopher Wernitznig, with Liendl sending Lloris the wrong way from 12 yards.

Wernitznig was inches away from making it 3-2 soon after, Lloris watching on helplessly as a thunderous strike clattered the crossbar.

Wolfsberger’s efforts proved fruitless, however, and Vinicius was on hand to cushion Erik Lamela’s header in to give Spurs a comfortable advantage ahead of the second leg.

What does it mean? Spurs have one foot in the last 16

Spurs had failed to win the first leg of their last seven knockout matches in the Europa League since a 3-0 win over Inter in 2012-13, so they at least managed to buck that trend.

They should have more than enough to see Wolfsberger off in the second leg and while Mourinho will perhaps be frustrated at a subdued second-half performance, Carlos Vinicius’ goal ensured it mattered little.

Bale back to form

It has been a difficult time for Bale on his return to Spurs, and further doubts were raised last week when Mourinho seemed to question why the 31-year-old had decided not to make himself available for the FA Cup clash with Everton.

However, the Real Madrid loanee offered a reminder of his quality on Thursday with a man-of-the-match display, as he scored and assisted for Spurs in a single game for the first time since April 2013, against Manchester City.

Sissoko’s complacency briefly offers hosts hope

Spurs’ concession of the penalty was all on Sissoko, who switched off in the area and felled Wernitznig, who was on the spot to force the mistake.

Tottenham have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 games in all competitions, and the needless goal made the second half more comfortable than it should have been.

Key Opta Facts

– No team in the history of major UEFA European competition have won by three or more goals away from home in the first leg of a knockout tie and failed to progress.
– Spurs became only the second English team to score at least three goals in three consecutive away major UEFA European matches, after Liverpool between October 2017 and February 2018.
– Son scored his 18th goal of the season in all competitions in his 35th appearance, equalling his tally in 41 appearances last season.
– Mourinho has been eliminated from just one of his 17 previous European knockout ties when winning the first leg, going out in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-final vs Liverpool.
– Wolfsburg’s Liendl has scored five of their eight goals in the UEFA Europa League this season.

What’s next?

Spurs have a derby against West Ham – six points above them in the Premier League – coming up on Sunday. Wolfsberger face Sturm Graz before travelling to London for next week’s second leg.


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