Match report and free highlights as Gareth Bale hits treble - and reaches 50 Premier League goals in rout; Heung-Min Son also on scoresheet; Tottenham five points off fourth-placed Chelsea with four games to play
Monday 3 May 2021 07:09, UK
Gareth Bale scored a brilliant hat-trick as Tottenham shook off their Carabao Cup final misery and kept alive their Champions League hopes with a 4-0 win over relegated Sheffield United.
Bale's 36th-minute opener, a fine instinctive flick from close range, was scant reward for Spurs' first-half dominance, but though Heung-Min Son saw an effort after the break (52) ruled out for offside, the Welshman would strike twice more legitimately and emphatically.
Bale brought up his 50th Premier League goal shortly after the hour mark when he was set up by Son on a Spurs breakaway and hit a fierce third without breaking stride (69) to fire a further reminder of his enduring potency.
The Blades, for whom John Fleck escaped punishment after a VAR review after catching Giovani Lo Celso on the head, had twice built momentum before conceding but Bale's third goal ended their fleeting resistance and Son completed the rout with a brilliant curled finish 13 minutes from time.
Tottenham move up to fifth - for now at least, having played a game more than West Ham, Liverpool and Everton behind them - but remain five points off Chelsea with just four games left to play.
Tottenham: Lloris (6), Aurier (8), Alderweireld (7), Dier (7), Reguilon (7), Hojbjerg (7), Lo Celso (6), Alli (7), Bale (9), Kane (6), Son (8).
Subs: Winks (6), Lamela (6), Bergwijn (7).
Sheff Utd: Ramsdale (5), Bogle (4), Baldock (5), Egan (4), Basham (5), Stevens (4), Fleck (5), Norwood (4), Osborn (5), McGoldrick (5), Brewster (3).
Subs: Berge (5), Burke (6), Mousset (N/A).
Man of the match: Gareth Bale
Seeking a mood-boosting win after unrest over their part in the European Super League, renewed speculation over Harry Kane's future, and a Manchester City mauling that delivered a paltry 0.06 in expected goals, Spurs were dominant from the off, albeit against far inferior opposition.
A moment of early hesitancy between Aaron Ramsdale and George Baldock almost cost the Blades with Sergio Reguilon lurking, but Spurs were building patiently as Dele Alli - making only his third Premier League start of the season - drifted between central areas and the left flank.
Kane's round-the-corner ball fizzed into Bale should have brought reward, the Welshman firing well over, and after Son drew a strong right hand from Ramsdale, Chris Basham had to sidefoot off his line to deny Kane.
Kane had further ballooned over and lashed a free-kick chance into Sheffield United shins but despite weathering the storm, the visitors were unable to make any rare forays forward count. David McGoldrick's pull-back from a dangerous area was straight at Hugo Lloris and Rhian Brewster - still to score for the Blades - shanked high and wide.
They were punished soon after when Bale stretched to elegantly lift a ball chipped into his path by Serge Aurier, the breakthrough belated but inevitable.
Fleck was reprieved after the interval after leaving Lo Celso with a cut that saw ice strapped to his head, the moment deemed accidental, but momentum the Blades seemed to have wrestled back through the substitutions of Oli Burke and Sander Berge was short-lived.
Though Son had been narrowly ruled offside from Toby Alderweireld's long ball forward (52), he was soon riding a Ben Osborn challenge from a spurned Blades corner before setting up Bale, who gave Ramsdale no chance with a powerful finish.
Aurier turned provider again eight minutes later, cutting inside after collecting Alli's slide-rule pass, and affording Bale a low first-time finish.
That sapped Sheffield United of any lingering fight and Son got the goal his busy performance deserved when Steven Bergwijn - on for Bale - robbed Oliver Norwood and teed him up to find the far top corner.
Kane, lively but wasteful, was denied by Ramsdale at the death but the damage was long done, Spurs earning a timely boost as they aim to keep the pressure on, and the Blades well beaten as the last whistle of a torturous season moves thankfully closer.
Eight goals in his last eight games: how Tottenham fans will be thinking what might have been.
Underused by Jose Mourinho, Ryan Mason had a hunch this might be the Welshman's night after what he revealed had been a bright week in training and how it proved. Six shots, five on target, three goals but Bale bristled with intent all night, relishing the freedom to roam with Kane, Son and Alli.
"Gareth Bale has been the jewel in Tottenham's attacking crown," said Sky Sports' co-commentator Andy Hinchcliffe. "He's given a movement and finishing masterclass."
Tottenham's Ryan Mason: "I thought Gareth was outstanding, his goals were world-class. No one should have doubted his ability in the final third; he's proved for a number of years he's one of the best in the world in those moments. He showed real commitment for the team and the moments he produced were outstanding.
"I think it's a conversation at the end of the season between Gareth, the club and his parent club. I'm really happy that Gareth's happy.
"I thought it was an outstanding performance. We've had a week to train hard and instil some principles. Most important was the attitude, the desire to compete and we paired it with moments."
On Fleck catching Lo Celso: "Absolutely it's a red card, no doubt. Looking at that once should be enough. I'm shocked the referee hasn't been told to have a look at it."
Sheffield United's Paul Heckingbottom: "We have to be at our best every week to get a result and we weren't. The first half upset me the most. It wasn't good enough. There's an anger at that first half. I don't enjoy watching that. The first goal is so passive. The second is a counter from our corner. The third is a giveaway in a bad area. We can't afford to give those players those kind of opportunities.
"When we came out in the second half, it was a much better attitude. It's an attitude and a mentality thing. Between now and the end of the season, it has to be a team that's willing to fight. It's taken its toll since the first lockdown and we've had a change in personnel. We need the fans back. But how we approach the final four games is important."
On Fleck: "There's no place for that on a football pitch but the VAR has looked at it and it's been deemed accidental and unintentional."
Sky Sports' Kate Burlaga:
Ryan Mason was coy when asked about a decision looming over Gareth Bale but more fundamental ones remain for the side his Tottenham team dismissed with ease.
Paul Heckingbottom insisted it was "business as usual" when asked if being confirmed as one of the names on Sheffield United's five-man shortlist to replace Chris Wilder on a permanent basis gave Sunday night greater significance than it might have had for a long-relegated side. But again, there was little evidence of fresh impetus.
The Blades have conceded 15 goals in his six games in charge and while the small sample size prevents wholly fair comparison with the man whose big shoes he has stepped in to fill, the stats-per-90 dip - fewer goals, shots, chances created, duels won - makes for concerning reading.
Heckingbottom has been hamstrung by injuries and a squad shaped to play his predecessor's system yet the Blades look a shell of their former selves; too passive, too accepting. The interim boss, who has admirers in the corridors of power, declared himself "angry" with his players' first-half display, but for short-lived moments of pluck, they were meek opposition.
An appointment is not thought to be imminent but the Blades' hopes of repeating Norwich's trick rest heavily on clarity, strategy. energy, direction. The board's next call is one of the biggest in the club's history.
Tottenham travel to Leeds on Saturday, May 8 for a 12.30pm kick-off, while Sheffield United host Crystal Palace on the same day (3pm kick-off). That match is live on Sky Sports Premier League.