TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (Bale 2, 55, Kane 15, Lucas Moura 31)
“TAXI FOR TAYLOR” does not have the same ring as the infamous “Taxi for Maicon” chant aimed at the former Inter Milan defender on the night Gareth Bale emerged as a superstar 11 years ago.
Charlie Taylor, the Burnley left-back, must have been grateful there were no Spurs fans on hand to sing their derision after Bale turned on his turbo-charger to speed past him in a display that confirmed the Welshman still sprinkles stardust from his boots.
Jose Mourinho finally gave Spurs fans what they had craved since last September by starting Bale alongside Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in a formidable front three, and the Welshman surpassed expectations with two goals and a hand in the other two.
It fully justified Mourinho’s decision to start the Welshman and left observers wondering just where Spurs would be now if Bale had been given a real run in the side sooner.
Mourinho has repeatedly made the point that Bale has been on a long slow road to full recovery after spending most of his final season at Real Madrid sidelined with injury, and it is only now that the 31-year-old looks like the explosive player of old.
“Gareth is very experienced and he knows his body well,” said his manager.
“It would be nice for me to say now that I managed him well but that’s not me. I’m really happy for him. There is not one manager in the world who would not play Gareth Bale when he is fit. Now he’s not flat, his condition is good and he played very well.”
Bale made an immediate impact by giving Spurs the lead after only 67 seconds. He started the move by shifting the ball out to the left, where it eventually reached Son, who curled a low pass into the heart of Burnley’s penalty area. Bale had timed his run perfectly to remain onside, and just needed a poke of his right boot to divert the ball past Nick Pope in the Burnley goal.
It was the perfect start for Spurs, who could have scored twice more before Kane made it 2-0 in the 15th minute, with Bale the creator.
He arrowed an inch-perfect pass from deep in his own half fully 50 yards into Kane’s path, the ball evading Josh Brownhill’s attempts to head clear by the narrowest of margins. Kane then did what he does best – took one touch to direct the ball towards goal and unleashed a thunderous shot that flicked James Tarkowski’s boot before flying into the net.
Tottenham’s front three were running riot, and Son set up Bale on the right, but when the Welshman cut back on to his left foot, he failed to hit the target.
Moura made no such mistake in the 31st minute, however when he shot powerfully home from a similar position after controlling a cross from Sergio Reguilon, who’d been sent clear by Bale.
Ten minutes into the second-half, Bale scored his second to make it 4-0. Again it was a lovely flowing move that turned defence swiftly into attack, led by Heung Min Son, who scored the Puskas award-winning goal of the season from a similar situation when the teams last met here. This time, instead of concluding his mazy run forward with his own finish, the Korean laid the ball across to Bale in acres of space on the right. Like Kane earlier, the Welshman took one touch before firing an unstoppable shot past Pope, the ball curling in off the far post.
For the remainder of the game, it was only the heroics of Pope, linked with a move to Spurs, that saved Burnley from a bigger beating as he saved well from Kane and Son.
The result means Tottenham moved back into eighth place, and with this performance proving Bale still has what it takes, Tottenham can start thinking once again about finishing in the top four.
Lloris 7; Aurier 7 (Doherty 80), Sanchez 8, Alderweireld 8, Reguilon 7; Ndomble 8, Hojbjerg 7; Bale 9 (Lamela 70), Moura 7 (Dele Alli 66), Son 7; Kane 8
Pope 8; Lowton 6, Tarkowski 6, Mee 6, Taylor 5; Brownhill 5, Westwood 6, Cork 6 (Stephens 86), McNeill 6; Rodriguez 6 (Richardson 88), Vydra 6 (Wood 72)
Ref: Kevin Friend 8/10