LONDON (AP) – Gareth Bale scored a hat trick as Tottenham stayed in the Champions League qualification race with a 4-0 win over relegated Sheffield United on Sunday.
Bale claimed his first treble since returning on loan from Real Madrid for this season, and Son Heung-min also netted, as Tottenham rose to fifth place – five points behind Chelsea with four games left to play.
Bale took his Premier League tally to eight goals in the last eight games, but with that must come a sense of what might have been this season. Bale was under-used by former manager Jose Mourinho, even when he had regained peak condition. Spurs were a constant threat and a far cry from the pragmatic style that dogged Mourinho’s era, playing with freedom in a front four with Harry Kane, Son, and Dele Alli.
This season, it may have come too late to gatecrash the top four, but playing like this makes them a solid bet to finish in a Europa League spot under interim manager Ryan Mason.
The onslaught started early as Son forced Aaron Ramsdale into a smart stop, with the Blades goalkeeper getting a strong hand to a low shot that was heading into the bottom corner. On the march for a third Premier League golden boot, Kane uncharacteristically missed two chances he would typically convert, first seeing a shot blocked after slaloming into the area and then sending Sergio Reguilon’s pullback embarrassingly over.
But Spurs finally went ahead in the 36th minute with a moment of quality.
Bale broke from deep to latch on to Serge Aurier’s ball over the top and then sent it past Ramsdale with an attractive finish with the outside of his boot. After coming off the bench in the League Cup final, the Wales international was back in the starting lineup and delivered his 12th goal in all competitions.