Gareth Bale celebrates his and Tottenham Hotspur's second goal in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
In one of his best performances of an already superb campaign, Gareth Bale scored on either side of Yoan Gouffran as Spurs sufficiently upped the tempo in search of a winner in the second half. The Welshman might have had a hat trick but for a superb save from Tim Krul and then a sitter he missed late on.
Regardless of that, Andre Villas-Boas will be delighted with a big three points as his team put further pressure on their Champions League rivals. How did each of his players rate for their afternoon's work? Read on to find out.
Tottenham generally defended well other than when Yoan Gouffran was given to space to fire past Hugo Lloris on 24 mins.
Hugo Lloris (7.5)
Lloris had relatively little to do throughout, comfortably dealing with the majority of Newcastle's efforts on goals. Late on he was called into action to pull of a game-saving stop, dashing quickly off of his line to deny Shola Ameobi after a deflection had bounced kindly for the striker.
Kyle Walker (7)
Walker was caught napping for Newcastle's goal when Gouffran, whom the right-back was marking, got away from him—a reminder he still has concentration issues. For the most part, though, Walker defended capably, giving anyone who ventured in his area little in the way of breathing space. Going forward he linked well (if not always productively) with Aaron Lennon.
Michael Dawson (8)
Dawson was unlucky with Gouffran's goal which deflected off him as he attempted to block the shot. Besides this, the Tottenham captain put in a dominating performance from central defense, blocking and tackling with a commanding authority while winning some big headers, too. Dawson's distribution was, bar a couple of misplaced passes, a lot better than in recent weeks.
Steven Caulker (6.5)
Caulker still has work to do in improving his positional awareness. On a few occasions he was found ball-watching and allowed Papiss Cisse and others too much space. In one-on-one situations, Caulker was rarely beaten and played a part in snuffing out some potentially dangerous Newcastle attacks. The center-back was unlucky not to score when a corner bounced off of him after Tim Krul had missed it completely.
Kyle Naughton (5.75)
Naughton came in for a weary Benoit Assou-Ekotto but did little to suggest he will be displacing him on a regular basis. He was caught flat-footed in the attack that led to Newcastle's equalizer and the Magpies had some further joy attacking him thereafter. In fairness, Naughton did improve defensively, but he will not count this among his better displays this season.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto (6)
Dropped after a tiring week on international duty, Assou-Ekotto came on with around 20 minutes left and helped shore up Spurs as they held onto their lead.
Scott Parker (7)
Parker's passing grew sloppy for a time in the second half, but on the whole this might rank as his best performance since returning from injury. Although he was perhaps lured out wide too easily in the build-up to Gouffran's goal, overall Parker gave great support in front of his defense. Snapping at the heels of any Newcastle player he came into contact with, his tackles were biting and full of conviction. He drove Spurs forward well too, linking up nicely with his teammates other than during that dodgy spell after the interval.
Mousa Dembele (6.5)
In one of Dembele's more ponderous displays this season, the Belgian struggled to make the most of his possession. Some good surges forward succeeded in putting Newcastle on the back foot, but he struggled to make an impact in the opposition half otherwise. In the second half especially, Dembele did partner well with Parker in denying their counterparts too much space in their approaches to the final third.
Lewis Holtby (6)
A bright start from Holtby saw the German buzzing about as Newcastle were unable to keep track of him. He was a key contributor in some pleasing rapid-fire exchanges Spurs played in the opening 20 minutes and looked a threat. After Newcastle's equalizer, Holtby became less involved and was a passenger until being substituted on 69 minutes.
Aaron Lennon (7)
This was another bright display from Lennon as he came to life in the second half. Just when Spurs were beginning to look flat, he along with Gareth Bale upped the tempo, helping his team back into the game. Those bright attacking runs gave his teammates a much-needed outlet and increasingly caused the Newcastle defense problems. It was not his best match for crossing, but there was not much in the way of options for him to use anyway.
Gareth Bale (9)
Gareth Bale the free-kick taker has been an erratic persona, but it was telling he had a big smile on his face just prior to taking it. The subsequent goal was a cheeky and extremely well-hit effort. Bale looked dangerous for a while afterward, but then struggled to find space for a large period of the game.
The second half was a different story, as after its first 15 minutes he and Lennon upped the pace to terrific effect. Bale (and Tottenham's) second goal was superb, with the winger smartly taking control of a bouncing ball and then finishing with aplomb. It was the start of a scintillating spell from Bale, with Newcastle unable to get near him. He was unlucky not be leaving the pitch with the match ball.
Jake Livermore (N/A)
Livermore was not on for long, though he got forward in support and was a little unlucky with a shot that Krul saved after getting into a good position in the penalty area.
Clint Dempsey (7)
Dempsey did not receive much in the way of service leading the line and therefore was unable to make much of an impact, though he put in a typically hard-working shift. The American did excellently in turning Fabricio Coloccini to win the foul that led to Bale's opener. After that, he made some decent runs in and around the penalty box but mostly had to go looking for the ball if he wanted it. Subsequently, Spurs were occasionally left without much of a presence upfront.
Dempsey grew more involved as the match progressed and linked up nicely with those around him when he could, especially when he moved into a deeper position.
Emmanuel Adebayor (7)
Adebayor did not see a whole lot of the ball when he came on. However, when it did come his way, he used it intelligently and gave Spurs a greater presence in the Newcastle final third. It was a positive cameo from the Togo man, and Villas-Boas will be hopeful of him having greater influence the next time he starts.