EPL

Tottenham 4-1 Crystal Palace: Bale and Kane at the double as Spurs move into top six

By Sports Desk March 07, 2021

Gareth Bale continued his recent goalscoring run with a brace matched by Harry Kane in Tottenham's 4-1 Premier League win at home to Crystal Palace.

Loan star Bale had netted just four times in his first 16 games back at Spurs, but his double on Sunday took his tally to six across his subsequent six appearances.

Kane assisted both goals, either side of a Christian Benteke header that only briefly pegged Jose Mourinho's men back, before the England captain added a sensational third and then the fourth for a double of his own.

Son Heung-min laid on the striker's second for the pair's 14th goal combination of the campaign, a new Premier League record, as a third straight victory took Tottenham into the top six.

The star of the show from the outset, Bale had already crafted a clear opening for Son Heung-min, nodded wastefully straight at Vicente Guaita, when he netted the opener after 25 minutes.

Lucas Moura led the Spurs press and pinched the ball from Luka Milivojevic before feeding Kane, who drilled in a low centre that found Bale with an open goal and a simple finish.

Unfortunately for Tottenham, Benteke was clinical from Palace's very first attempt on the stroke of half-time as he directed Milivojevic's left-wing cross into the top-right corner with a thumping header.

But Bale picked out the same corner at the same end four minutes after the restart, climbing highest when Kane nodded Sergio Reguilon's delivery back across goal.

Following two assists, Kane then supplied the pick of the goals, a first-time effort from 20 yards that flew over Guaita's head just 138 seconds after he had last been beaten.

Wilfried Zaha, returning from injury as a half-time substitute, was unfortunate to strike the post with a left-footed shot, but Palace were soon picked apart again as a gorgeous Erik Lamela pass teed up Son's volleyed cross onto the waiting head of Kane.

Related items

  • Can Cam Newton rescue the Panthers' season? Can Cam Newton rescue the Panthers' season?

    Sequels rarely live up to the standard of the original. While Cam Newton's return to the Carolina Panthers stands as one of the most sentimentally fulfilling stories of the 2021 NFL season, the odds of him living up to his achievements during his spectacular first spell with the team are slim.

    Yet through two appearances and one start, Newton's second act in Charlotte appears to be one worthy of the price of admission, if not one that will yield the honours that came during their initial nine-season association.

    The Panthers lost in Week 11 with Newton starting at quarterback, a 27-21 defeat to the Washington Football Team and former Carolina coach Ron Rivera dealing a significant blow to hopes of securing a Wild Card berth in the NFC.

    But the Panthers are a long way from being dead in the water and, while Newton is not the player he was when he won the MVP in 2015, his performance against Washington at least suggested his encouraging play in preseason for the New England Patriots was not a mirage.

    At 5-6, Carolina can ill-afford too many more slip-ups if the Panthers are to return to the playoffs, raising the question: can Cam Newton save their season?

    An upgrade over Darnold

    It's a very small sample size, but the early evidence indicates Newton, the man head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers let go after the 2019 season, represents an upgrade of his most recent batch of successors.

    In the defeat to Washington, Newton delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.5 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, and did not throw a single interceptable pass.

    Newton was brought back to replace the injured Sam Darnold, whom the Panthers traded for in the offseason. Darnold's well-thrown percentage of 80 for the season is still above the league average of 78.5, but his pickable pass rate of 4.21 per cent is inferior to the league-wide average of 3.62, Carolina's hopes of turning around his career after a dismal start with the New York Jets quickly fading.

    The threat posed by Newton's athletic upside was also apparent last week. He averaged 5.86 yards per carry on designed runs, including a 24-yard rushing touchdown on a perfectly executed zone-read.

    Prior to that score, Newton threw the Panthers' first touchdown of the game by faking a quarterback draw up the middle to draw up the two safeties and a middle linebacker guarding the endzone, giving him a much simpler throw to D.J. Moore on the slant route.

    Darnold can himself make an impact with his legs, however, the combination of Newton's accuracy throwing the ball and his more pronounced threat on the ground led to an exciting albeit losing effort that gives optimism the Panthers' offense can be more potent as he digests Joe Brady's playbook.

    Yet one element of his supporting cast may limit the ceiling of a Newton-led attack.

    Protection issues a pressing concern

    Newton is not short of elite talent around him. Christian McCaffrey delivered a reminder of his status as one of the game's top all-round running backs last Sunday. He demonstrated his burst by averaging 3.7 yards before contact per attempt and his ability to evade defenders in the backfield with an average of 5.5 yards per carry on rush attempts where there was a rush disruption.

    Additionally, McCaffrey hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Newton, one on which the quarterback showcased exquisite touch and placement to loft the ball over the outstretched arm of a linebacker and into the running back's grasp.

    Top receiver Moore is producing a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, 68 per cent of the time, with his burn yards per route average of 3.3 putting him tied for 11th among wideouts with at least 10 targets.

    Newton and McCaffrey being on the field at the same time can put defenses in a significant bind when faced with the zone-read, as Newton's rushing score against Washington proved, with both substantial threats to gain major yardage on the ground.

    Moore's continued ascension gives Newton a bonafide number one receiver, yet the impact of having two top-tier skill-position weapons will be mitigated if the Panthers cannot improve on the offensive line.

    Indeed, the Panthers entered Week 12 ranked 30th in pass protection win percentage while only the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have allowed more quarterback pressures than Carolina's 204.

    Even in his 11th season, Newton boasts a skill set ideally suited to the modern game and has the weapons to succeed, yet his ability to do so will be restricted if he is under duress as much as Panthers signal-callers have been in 2021.

    Home stretch filled with obstacles

    The hope for Carolina this month comes in the form of that Dolphins offensive line, which a Panthers defense allowing the second-fewest yards per play (4.91) in the NFL faces in Week 12.

    Yet beyond this week and games with the Atlanta Falcons and a seemingly crumbling New Orleans Saints team, the schedule offers little for the Panthers to get excited about.

    They face defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, unlikely to be daunted by the Carolina defense, twice before the end of the regular season, while a Buffalo Bills team whose defense is well-positioned to take advantage of poor pass protection and whose offense is tied for the league lead with 37 touchdowns host the Panthers in Week 15.

    Carolina's remaining schedule is the eighth toughest in the NFL by winning percentage and, in a race for the Wild Card spots with three surging teams in the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, the chances of the Panthers overcoming such a hurdle look small, particularly given the potentially fatal flaw they have up front.

    Still, the combination of Newton, McCaffrey, Moore and one of the most efficient defenses in the league at least offers reason for hope. Can Newton save Carolina's season? Probably not, but he gives them a better shot than any other quarterback they have started this season.

  • India wrestle back control of first Test through Axar Patel brilliance India wrestle back control of first Test through Axar Patel brilliance

    The first Test between India and New Zealand swung back in the hosts' favour on Saturday thanks to the brilliance of Axar Patel.

    The left-arm spinner accounted for Tom Latham, who was just five runs short of a century, before making light work of the lower order to finish with figures of 5-62.

    It was the fifth five-four Axar has recorded in his previous seven innings in Test cricket and it seemed to inspire the rest of India's attack as they left New Zealand all out on 296.

    Latham and Will Young had put New Zealand in a commanding position of 129-0 at the close of day two, and their partnership of 151 steered the Black Caps to 213-2 despite the best efforts of Axar and Ravichandran Ashwin (3-82).

    However, the match changed course in the afternoon session. Umesh Yadav trapped Kane Williamson lbw after the captain managed just 18 off 64 deliveries, and Axar took the wickets of Ross Taylor (11) and Henry Nicholls (2) while only giving up 14 runs in an 11-over spell.

    Tom Blundell and Tim Southee were then skittled by Axar, who capped his performance by catching Kyle Jamieson just as he was building up steam on 23.

    There was time for India to put some runs on the board before the light faded, although the excitable crowd in Kanpur was stunned into eerie silence when Jamieson bowled Shubman Gill for his 50th Test wicket with the first ball of the second over.

    India will resume on day four on 14-1 with a lead of 63 runs.

    Axar hogging the limelight

    New Zealand looked to have the match under their control at 196-1 until Axar intervened. It was his fifth five-wicket haul of 2021; the last player to record as many in the year of his Test debut was Australia's Rodney Hogg back in 1978.

    "Taking five wickets in seven innings is something the other team-mates have been teasing me about. It's like a dream within a dream start," he said.

    Jamieson keeps up New Zealand spirits

    After failing to make the most of Latham and Young's impressive opening stand, New Zealand heads were down as India began their second innings.

    However, Jamieson's terrific ball to Gill might just have halted the hosts' momentum. It also made the 26-year-old the fastest man to reach 50 Test wickets for New Zealand, his half-century coming in just nine matches, with previous record-holder Shane Bond doing so in 12.

  • Man Utd striker Cavani steps up recovery but still a doubt for Chelsea clash Man Utd striker Cavani steps up recovery but still a doubt for Chelsea clash

    Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani spent the international break in Uruguay stepping up his recovery, but he remains a doubt to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

    A tendon problem has prevented Cavani from featuring for United since a substitute appearance in the Red Devils' 2-2 draw with Atalanta on November 2, missing the losses to Manchester City and Watford that spelled the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign, as well as the most recent victory over Villarreal.

    The 34-year-old also missed out on the chance to represent his country, with Uruguay slipping to defeat against Argentina and Bolivia, putting their World Cup qualification hopes in jeopardy and leading to the sacking of Oscar Tabarez as head coach after 15 years in the role. 

    The veteran striker is now eager to get back out on the pitch after spending the international break in his homeland to focus on his rehabilitation.

    Cavani also revealed that the trip gave him an opportunity to spend valuable time with his family.

    "During this period of the international break, I've had the chance to stop and focus on this niggling injury that I'm feeling in the tendon in my leg, so I can speed up my recovery and come back quickly and be available for my club and national team," Cavani told the club's official website.

    "So, during this time, I was able to spend a few days in Uruguay, do some fitness and recovery work and stuff and, in turn, I managed to see my family at the same time, which is always important, to see your family and be close to them."

    Eighth-placed United face Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday in caretaker manager Michael Carrick's second game in charge and will be hoping for another positive result after the 2-0 Champions League win over Villarreal on Tuesday.

    It remains unclear if Cavani will be able to boost his side's chances with his availability, or if his comeback will have to wait until the Red Devils' subsequent game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on December 2.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.