Bale softens Defoe blow as Spurs hunt down Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur lost Jermain Defoe to injury but won 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion through a fine Gareth Bale goal to bolster their push for Champions League qualification on Sunday.
Emmanuel Adebayor's commitments with Togo at the Africa Cup of Nations have left Defoe as Spurs' only senior striker, but the England international had to go off in the 39th minute at The Hawthorns after appearing to twist his ankle.
Once again, Bale was Spurs' most dangerous player but his best effort in the first half, a fierce, bending strike in injury time, was touched over by West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The hosts carved out a clear sight of goal when Graham Dorrans released Shane Long, but visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris narrowed the angle well to block.
Tottenham were given a helping hand early in the second half when West Brom's Macedonian left-back Goran Popov, on loan from Dynamo Kiev, was shown a straight red card for spitting towards Spurs right-back Kyle Walker.
Spurs made their numerical advantage count in the 67th minute as Bale took his tally for the season to 11 league goals with a vicious strike from just outside the 18-yard area.
On playing in a more central role, Bale told Sky Sports: "I enjoy it. It's a role that I'm learning season by season.
"I've come in (from the wing) more often than in previous seasons and I enjoy it. It's a new experience for me, a chance to improve my game and add a new dimension."
Victory took Andre Villas-Boas' side to within a point of third-placed Chelsea in the Premier League table, while West Brom stay in ninth place.
Manchester United moved 10 points clear at the top of the table by winning 1-0 at Fulham on Saturday, but champions Manchester City can cut the deficit to seven points if they win at home to Liverpool later on Sunday.
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