Gareth Bale came off the bench to head the winner for Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Sunday, his first goal since returning to the club from Real Madrid.
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The Welshman was brought on in the 70th minute and three minutes later he met a Sergio Reguilon cross with a firm and well-directed header to restore Tottenham’s lead. It is Bale’s first goal in the Premier League since scoring against Sunderland in May 2013.
Harry Kane had put Spurs ahead in the 13th minute from the penalty spot after Adam Lallana was ruled to have fouled him as he climbed for a header.
Brighton responded with a long spell of good possession football as Spurs failed to drive home their advantage and Graham Potter’s side drew level in the 56th minute.
Tariq Lamptey drove into the far, bottom corner after being set up by Pascal Gross at the end of a clever move from Brighton but the VAR official asked referee Graham Scott to look at a challenge on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg by Solly March.
Spurs felt that Marsh had fouled the Dane but Scott ruled the challenge was fair and the goal stood.
Tottenham then struck the post twice, firstly a drive from the edge of the box from Erik Lamela and then a close-range effort from a tight angle by Kane.
Then came Bale’s winner as Spurs moved above Everton in the standings into second place on 14 points, two behind leaders Liverpool. Everton lost 2-1 to Newcastle United earlier on Sunday.
Bale has yet to start in the Premier League for Spurs as he works his way back to full match fitness and was delighted to have got off the mark.
“It’s a great feeling. You just want to come on and do a job for the team. I worked for the team and was lucky enough to get the goal,” he said.
But Bale was wary of the suggestion that Spurs could be in a position to compete for the title this season.
“[We are] very competitive, we know not to get too carried away. There are some great teams, we are just going to keep working as hard as we can,” he said.
Mourinho lauded Bale’s play but added that he is still gaining his fitness for full matches.
“He doesn’t have 90 minutes in his legs yet. We are using the Europa League to get him minutes and when we can in the Premier League,” Mourinho said. He is of course getting better and better and better. He will start again on Thursday but he will not play 90 minutes. I will use him in the right way.”
Mourinho also cautioned that being second in the standings means little at the moment.
“In 2004 when I came to England there were certain matches that the top teams knew was three points — not any more,” he said.
“Now this is the best league in the world, not just because of the top six, for every team. In the Premier League, everyone is close.
“If we drop two points we can be seventh, eighth, ninth. The Premier League is beautiful,” he added.
On the VAR decisions, Brighton manager Graham Potter said: “I can’t control what they do. When I saw them live I wasn’t sure about Harry Kane’s one. With our one it seemed quite similar to Lamptey’s one against Palace. I thought it might have been a foul in the build-up to our goal. I thought we played well though and I’d rather concentrate on that.”