NEWCASTLE United were more than a match for Tottenham Hotspur – but not Gareth Bale.
That was the verdict of manager Alan Pardew after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to White Hart Lane.
Bale struck a goal in each half to leave Newcastle 15th in the Premier League ahead of a two-week break from domestic football.
Bale beat goalkeeper Tim Krul in the fifth-minute with an inch-perfect free-kick after Fabricio Coloccini clumsily fouled Clint Dempsey 25 yards from goal.
United clawed their way back into the game – Yoan Gouffran scored a deflected equaliser midway through the first half – but Bale punished some hesitant defending 12 minutes from time by scoring the winning goal.
With Tottenham missing the injured Jermain Defoe – and Emmanuel Adebayor starting from the bench after his belated return from the African Cup of Nations – only Bale really threatened Krul’s goal.
“Really and truly, if you take Gareth Bale out of the equation, we’d have probably have won,” Pardew told SportMail.
“We contained him for long periods, but it’s difficult to strap him down for 90 minutes,
“When the moment arrived, he delivered.”
Pardew – who labelled Bale one of the top six players in the world before the game – was heartened by much of what he saw at White Hart Lane, which was in stark contrast to the club’s 5-0 defeat there 12 months earlier.
“They had a brilliant start,” he added. “We conceded what you have to say was an inch-perfect free-kick, but we responded really well and got hold of the game.
“(Moussa) Sissoko catches the eye with some of the things he does. It was looking good for us.
“We almost nicked an equaliser right at the end. We had to open up the game, and they had a couple of breakaways.
“You have to say, for long periods of the game, you just sensed we might get something. We were very unlucky.”