Premier League - Bale brace downs Newcastle

Premier League, White Hart Lane - Tottenham 2 (Bale 5, 78) Newcastle 1 (Gouffran)

Gareth Bale continued his impressive run of form with two goals in a 2-1 victory for Tottenham Hotspur at home to Newcastle United.

The Wales international scored a lovely free-kick after just five minutes and then exploited some poor defending in the second half as he made it four goals in his past three games for club and country to cement his status as arguably the Premier League's most in-form player.

Yoan Gouffran responded with a deflected effort after 24 minutes but he was later taken off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a nasty shin injury to compound a disappointing afternoon for Newcastle, who were unable to secure a third consecutive victory.

Tottenham, meanwhile, extended their lead over Everton and Arsenal with the win and even skipped ahead of Chelsea into third ahead of their London rivals' 3pm kick-off against Wigan. If Bale can maintain the rate of goalscoring that has now produced 13 goals in 23 Premier League games, then Champions League football will surely be theirs come the end of the season.

Jermain Defoe's injury and Emmanuel Adebayor's late return from the African Cup of Nations meant Andre Villas-Boas was forced to send his team out with Clint Dempsey in the attacking role and Bale and Lewis Holtby supporting the American. Newcastle, meanwhile, were unchanged following a 3-2 win over Chelsea last weekend.

Tottenham's reconfigured attack sprung into life as early as the second minute as Bale and Holtby swapped passes and the Welshman delivered a tantalising cross for Dempsey that Davide Santon did well to clear from the feet of the forward.

It was then Dempsey's turn to trouble the visiting defence when spinning easily away from Fabricio Coloccini and drawing a foul from the Argentine. Bale lined up the free-kick from 25 yards and struck a dipping, Ronaldo-esque effort just over the wall and into the corner of the net. It was a fantastic strike, though James Perch could have jumped to block it with his head had he been braver.

Tottenham's attack was full of intent and invention, with Holtby notably lively on his full debut. The Germany international showed some nice touches, linked with well with Aaron Lennon to his right and went close with two curling first-time efforts that flew narrowly over the bar.

Newcastle were pinned back for much of the first half but always looked a threat, with Papiss Cisse peeling away from Steven Caulker and angling a header just wide of the far post after being picked out by a lovely ball over the top from Coloccini.

However, on 24 minutes they did have their first goal at White Hart Lane since March 2008. Jonas Gutierrez played in Moussa Sissoko with a neat pass down the line and he turned the ball into the path of Gouffran, who saw his well-struck effort take a huge deflection off the back of Michael Dawson and nestle in the net.

The forward's afternoon was brought to a premature end in the second half though as Gouffran was taken off on a stretcher having received a kick to the shins from Kyle Walker as the Spurs defender cleared the ball and caught his opponent with his follow-through. He required oxygen on the pitch and the game was delayed by three minutes as he received treatment.

Tottenham had an injury problem of their own to contend with on 67 minutes when Bale went down in a heap following a late challenge from Perch. The Wales international had gone over nastily on his ankle but recovered quickly and when Andre Villas-Boas did send on Adebayor from the bench, it was for Holtby rather than Bale.

In what was becoming a rather sterile second half, Bale then threatened with a low effort on his right foot that required Steven Taylor to stick in his boot and clear. However, on 78 minutes he did claim a second.

Both Taylor and Coloccini failed to deal with a bouncing ball and Bale surged between the two of them to race clear, take a couple of touches and finish past an unconvincing Krul with a classy finish from a tight angle. Two almost became three when Bale raced away from the Newcastle defence again, only for Krul to throw out a hand and turn his ferocious drive over the bar.

After Yohan Cabaye was lucky to avoid a red card for a late, nasty challenge on Dembele, the game entered injury time, which would last a full nine minutes due in large part to Gouffran's injury.

Bale had two fantastic chances to claim a hat-trick - the first saw him volley over an open goal with his right foot, the second was a low drive that Krul just got his fingertips to - but though the Welshman was denied a third goal, he took the man-of-the-match award following another devastating display.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Gareth Bale (Tottenham) - A thrilling exhibition of pace and power from Tottenham's best player as he worked Newcastle relentlessly down the flanks and through the centre. Two nice goals were due reward.

PLAYER RATINGS

TOTTENHAM: Lloris 7, Walker 7, Dawson 7, Caulker 6, Naughton 5, Parker 6, Dembele 6, Lennon 7, Holtby 7, Bale 9, Dempsey 6. Subs: Adebayor 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Livermore N/A.

NEWCASTLE: Krul 6, Debuchy 5, Taylor 7, Coloccini 5, Santon 6, Perch 6, Cabaye 6, Gutierrez 7, Sissoko 6, Gouffran 7, Cisse 5. Subs: Marveaux 6, Tiote 6, Ameobi N/A.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS