Tottenham celebrate Gylfi Sigurdsson's equalizer in their 3-2 win over West Ham United.
Gareth Bale was once again the star of the show, opening the night's scoring before netting a superb winner just short of the 90-minute mark. West Ham cancelled out the Welshman's opener through an Andy Carroll penalty before Joe Cole gave them a second-half lead. Gylfi Sigurdsson levelled for Tottenham, setting the scene for the Bale-inspired conclusion.
Spurs are now in third place ahead of their meeting with Arsenal on Sunday. Besides bragging rights, what else will they take from Monday's game? And what is next for the not-so-happy Hammers?
Spurs celebrate another crucial late goal.
Tottenham's comeback in this game was another example of the spirit that has helped them to so many important results of late.
Clint Dempsey scored a late equalizer to earn a deserved point at home to champions-elect Manchester United (their only dropped points in the league in 2013) just over a month ago. Seven points in their following three games were secured by second-half goals, and just last week, Mousa Dembele scored late against Lyon to secure progress to the Europa League Round of 16.
Despite going behind two goals to one against West Ham, Spurs remained patient and committed to getting back in the game.
A little luck was on their side in the way the ball dropped for Gylfi Sigurdsson's equalizer. Crucially, he was alert to the situation, ready to bundle in when the ball came his way.
Tottenham's third typified their desire to get the win. Bale drove forward with others in support alongside him. After passing to Sigurdsson, he momentarily lost his balance but was quickly back to his feet when Carroll looked his way and laid it off. Bale took a chance with a shot from such a distance, and it more than paid off.
An Arsenal side determined to claw back a points deficit in the league will almost certainly test Spurs' spirit on Sunday. If the latter can find a way to win that game, they will begin to feel even more excited about their prospects for the remainder of the season.
Tom Carroll (top) celebrating Spurs' winner.
Tottenham looked a little tired in places as the game went on. Understandably so, as West Ham pushed them hard for much of the game. Watching a few of his players, Villas-Boas might be wondering whether he was a little hasty to send so many of his squad's youngsters out on loan.
One of them still at the club is Tom Carroll. The 20-year-old came on against West Ham with 15 minutes remaining in normal time. A zippy performer by nature, his fresh legs and sensible movement of the ball kept Spurs ticking along as they searched for a way back into the game.
Having advanced forwards, he was the one who teed up Bale prior to his winner.
Carroll's contribution was not specifically game changing, but it was a welcome one nonetheless. It was an example of the role talented young players such as himself can play late on in such games, and in the season itself as his teammates tire.
The decision to send someone like Andros Townsend out on loan was done so in order to get him more experience. However, he would have been a useful player to have around the squad right now.
Aaron Lennon has played so much football this season and over the last month has not been as effective as he had been previously. Having a solid young understudy like Townsend around would have allowed Villas-Boas to rest Lennon for a match, or at least offer a similar alternative.
There is enough remaining within the Spurs squad to keep them going. But they may have benefited from having the extra numbers around in the months to come. Without the likes of Townsend, Harry Kane and Jonathan Obika, they are relying a lot on avoiding injuries before the season is out.
It is not new news that Bale is playing pretty sensationally right now. What is changing is his value, as with each great goal and bright performance, Tottenham are being given the right to up their asking price for him.
Spurs will very much be hoping they finish this current campaign strongly and Bale is happy to stay a while longer. In which case, this will not matter one iota. But at the very least, they can say to any club who wants a player as good as him they are going to have to pay an exorbitant amount of money.
With three years remaining on his contract, Tottenham do not have to worry about selling him or risking losing out. In the current market too, any world football power who wishes to sign Bale is looking at having to fork out at least £50 million.
As negotiations for former-Spurs stars like Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric have shown, club chairman Daniel Levy knows how to get the maximum in any sale.
Sam Allardyce greets Andre Villas-Boas.
The Tottenham game was one Sam Allardyce would have earmarked as capable of giving his West Ham team a massive boost in their attempts to secure their Premier League status for another year. Not only for the valuable three points, but for what it would have meant to get one over a despised foe.
With Monday night's remembrance of the passing of club legend Bobby Moore, a win over their rivals would have meant so much for their fans. It was such a potentially heady mix of emotions, it is not getting carried away to suggest it could have changed their season (just look at what Arsenal's win over Spurs in February did for them last season).
Instead of taking what would have been a sizable (and most gleefully administered) scalp, West Ham are left asking "what comes next?"
Avoiding relegation should be motivation enough. Such would have been the cachet of this win, though Allardyce must move quickly to set his team's next targets and focus in on them.
Jussi Jaaskelainen was superb against Spurs.
Despite the loss, some of the football West Ham played was among the best they have this season. In the end, they came up against a team whose major talents outshone their own, but there was enough on display to suggest they have enough to stay up this year.
Jussi Jaaskelainen has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but against Tottenham, he was generally excellent. He kept his team in it when Spurs threatened to overwhelm them, similar displays will be vital in the months to come.
The defense in front of him (featuring James Collins, who has been revitalised since rejoining West Ham) kept the opposition out for large periods of time. Issues that will concern their manager, though, are their lapses of concentration (though Spurs are hardly immune to these) and the disconnect between them and the midfield.
The latter was partly down to tiredness, but it was exposed when Bale was given space to shoot from distance late in the game. A greater balance here would be most effective, because there is certainly quality in the attacking positions.
Joe Cole, Matt Jarvis and Mohamed Diame all at various points showed their respective ability to get at Spurs—on the ball and in movement in between the lines. Of course, with Andy Carroll they, have a potent threat too, if only they could find a way to involve him more often.
As commendable a win as this was, and for all their good work in recent months, Tottenham's true tests are still to come. They start this Sunday with the visit of Arsenal to White Hart Lane.
Villas-Boas and his players have done so well in getting to where they currently sit third in the Premier League. Having been beaten just once in the league since mid-November, they have every right to be optimistic about what they can achieve from here.
Yet the club occupied the same position and were enjoying a similarly impressive run of form heading into the North London derby this time last year. The 5-2 defeat they suffered on that occasion proceeded a costly unravelling of their season.
Circumstances are different this time in several respects. Arsenal are still a legitimate obstacle to their hopes this season though, and beyond them lie several more tough fixtures.
West Ham unsurprisingly proved a tricky challenge. But for all the surrounding animosity and hype that comes with such a derby game, it was a match they were expected to win.
The demands on Tottenham are only going to get greater from here.