Premier League - Title heading to United as Bale inspires Tottenham comeback

Premier League, White Hart Lane - Tottenham 3 (Dempsey 75, Defoe 79, Bale 82) Manchester City (Nasri 5)

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Gareth Bale (AFP)

A remarkable late burst of three goals in seven minutes gave Tottenham Hotspur a valuable 3-1 win over Manchester City and put Manchester United within 90 minutes of securing a 20th league title.

Samir Nasri put City in front at White Hart Lane with a well-taken finish and until 75 minutes it appeared Spurs were destined to suffer a significant setback in their challenge for a top-four finish.

However, Andre Villas-Boas changed the game with three substitutions and Tottenham levelled when Clint Dempsey converted at the back post from a glorious cross from the returning Gareth Bale.

Jermain Defoe quickly made it 2-1 with a thumping finish into the far corner before Bale completed the transformation with a delicate dinked finish over Joe Hart to complete another fine afternoon for the favourite to collect the PFA Player of the Year award.

The result means United will secure the title if they defeat Aston Villa at home on Monday night, while Tottenham move to within two points of rivals Arsenal with a game in hand and level with Chelsea, who play later on Sunday.

Bale, nominated for both the senior PFA award and the and Young Player of the Year award on Friday, was named in the Tottenham side after recovering from an ankle injury, while Manchester City replaced Sergio Aguero with Edin Dzeko in one of four changes.

Bale was prominent in a lively start from Spurs, who were hoping to do better than a crushing 5-1 defeat in the corresponding fixture last season. After almost darting onto one clever ball into the box, the Welshman then tested Joe Hart from 30 yards with a nasty, swerving effort.

Still, it was City who took the lead after just five minutes, thanks to a wonderfully persistent piece of play from Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian looked to have few options when pursued by two Spurs players near the corner flag but turned to slip in a perfect pass for James Milner. He drove into the box and chipped a pass back for Nasri, who nonchalantly finished when steering a cushioned volley into the bottom corner from 15 yards out.

Nasri almost brought his afternoon to a premature end just minutes later when he stupidly went in over the ball on Kyle Walker and nicked the right-back's leg. It looked a potential red card, but the France international was fortunate to escape even a yellow.

Walker was then denied by a fantastic save from Hart, who rushed off his line to block at the feet of the defender following a sumptuous dinked pass from Dempsey, but it was City who began to dominate as Tevez took control of the game in masterful fashion, moving sleekly and nimbly between the lines and supplying a succession of clever passes.

After 28 minutes he turned a firm pass from Pablo Zabaleta into the path of Nasri with a sublime first-time flick, only for his team-mate to stab the ball wide after losing Jan Vertonghen with a neat nutmeg. Twelve minutes later, Tevez played in Dzeko with a fine pass before the Bosnia striker was denied by an expert save by the diving Hugo Lloris.

The Spurs keeper also had to be alert to repel a close-range header from the influential Tevez but it was Tottenham who finished the half the stronger, Dempsey heading over when eluding City's zonal marking from a corner and Gylfi Sigurdsson failing to wrap his foot around a loose ball from close range following a cross from the American.

If Nasri was somewhat fortunate to escape punishment for his challenge on Walker in the first half, it was another minor mystery how Benoit Assou-Ekotto only earned a yellow for a wild two-footed challenge on Zabaleta at the start of the second, though his opponent's generous reaction and the fact he got a chunk of the ball may have spared him a dismissal at the hands of referee Lee Mason.

It was a more tentative affair in the second half, with Yaya Toure supplying a rare shot on goal when driving in a firm effort after Walker cleared the ball awkwardly into his path. Lloris, as ever, was alert to the danger and held onto his effort.

After Spurs introduced Lewis Holtby and Tom Huddlestone for Sigurdsson and Parker to reconfigure their midfield, and Defoe for the painfully quiet Emmanuel Adebayor in attack, the game began to turn in favour of the home side.

Dempsey pulled Spurs level with an easy finish at the back post after Hart had been caught in two minds by a tremendous cross from Bale, who picked up a good pass from Walker to stroke the ball across goal with the outside of his boot.

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Inside four minutes, it was 2-1. Defoe drifted to the left to pick the ball up, checked onto his right foot past Kompany and lashed a superb shot into the far corner past a helpless Hart. Just as City contemplated how best to find a way back into the match, Bale killed them off with a perfectly measured dink over the onrushing Hart after collecting Huddlestone's through-ball.

If the title had realistically been settled prior to Tottenham's comeback, the battle for Champions League qualification may yet be significantly affected by this stunning display of resolve from Villas-Boas's side.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Gareth Bale (Tottenham) - He had a quiet first half but the Welsh superstar sprung into life just when Tottenham needed him, teeing up Dempsey for the equaliser then rounding off the scoring himself.

PLAYER RATINGS

TOTTENHAM: Lloris 7, Walker 7, Dawson 6, Vertonghen 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Parker 6, Dembele 7, Dempsey 7, Bale 8, Sigurdsson 6, Adebayor 5. Subs: Huddlestone 8, Holtby 6, Defoe 8.

MAN CITY: Hart 5, Zabaleta 7, Kompany 6, Nastasic 6, Clichy 6, Barry 6, Y Toure 6, Milner 7, Tevez 8, Nasri 7, Dzeko 5. Subs: Kolarov 5, Sinclair 5, Lescott N/A.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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