The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Spurs' Gareth Bale vs. QPR
The back-stretch of 2011 was a strange time. Gareth Bale wore the number 3, Harry Redknapp was the new Rinus Michels and Tottenham Hotspur were being touted for the title.
In what is without doubt the best half-season of being a Spurs fan I’ve ever had, we were ripping sides to shreds every week, scoring for fun and in one stretch won 10 out of 11 games in the Premier League. New signing Scott “Scottie” Parker and his Cattermole-esque shorts were the perfect foils for Luka Modric’s mercurial talents; and the front four of Bale, Rafa van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor were a joy to behold.
Ah, it seemed those days would never end, but a cataclysmic second half of the season crushed all my silly little dreams – if only Defoe’s legs were a little longer. Anyway, about half way through the aforementioned hot run of form came my favourite Tottenham goal. In late October, we hosted QPR in what is probably the worst London derby there is. This game, however, was entertaining from the off as we raced into a characteristic early lead, going 2-0 up courtesy of van der Vaart and Bale. In the first half we were truly magnificent, I mean we absolutely took them to pieces and should probably have had it sewn up by half time. But a scrappy Jay Bothroyd goal on the hour mark meant the atmosphere in the ground was transformed. I seem to remember it being bitterly cold and wet and this just added to the torture that was the ten minutes following Bothroyd’s goal. It was only early in the season but this game was important in keeping our momentum and I knew we were going to throw it away. Knew it.
But then it happened. Spurs launched a foray forward and, after three quick, pinpoint passes between Lennon and Bale, the Welshman curled the ball past Paddy Kenny from the edge of the box to send us all into delirium.
It was over in the blink of an eye but I was right behind it and it really did feel amazing. And we were going to do it, we were actually going to win. It wasn’t a particularly significant win – it only kept us fifth – but it was the fact that we hadn’t crumbled, as much as the impact of the goal itself, that made it so special. The utter relief I felt then was something I’ve only ever experienced a handful of times at a football match and I remember walking back through Tottenham after the game; across the road and through the estate and all the way back to the car with my dad, and knowing we could do something that season.
Jermain Defoe’s late winner at West Brom a few weeks later would again elicit this feeling but Bale’s goal stands out above that. I’ve witnessed better Spurs goals, more important goals, goals I’ve celebrated more (I remember injuring myself in the aftermath of Mousa Dembele’s last-gasp winner at Lyon) but this is my favourite without question.
On that cold, dark afternoon I really began to believe.