Gareth Bale sunk Norwich City with a brilliant brace as Tottenham Hotspur moved seven points behind joint pacesetters Manchester City and champions Manchester United with an easy win at Carrow Road.
After laying siege to the Norwich goal in the first half, Spurs finally found the opener 10 minutes after the break when Bale picked up Emmanuel Adebayor’s pass to drive a shot under John Ruddy.
Bale then latched on to Luka Modric’s pass to sprint 45 yards before lifting the ball over the on-rushing Norwich goalkeeper with a sublime finish to kill off the match 12 minutes later.
The performance may have been slightly ropey in the first half, but the devastating display from Bale underscored why Tottenham believe they should be deemed credible title challengers.
The London club, who have a match in hand over all their rivals, will head into the new year as the capital’s top club, and with games against Swansea and West Brom coming up, few would back against Harry Redknapp’s men putting more pressure on both Manchester teams over the next few days.
Bale believes the experience of playing in the Champions League last season has helped Spurs kick on in the league this campaign.
He said: “We’ve learned a lot from last year being in the Champions League.”
Bale claimed he did not lose faith Spurs would win the game after failing to take a number of chances in the first half. He added: “As long as we are creating chances, that’s the main thing.
“We were confident we would get one whoever it fell to and lucky enough it was me.”
With Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool all drawing over the past two days – the Gunners were held 1-1 at home by Wolves yesterday – Tottenham had the perfect chance to put themselves within striking distance of the summit.
They were frustrated at the interval, having failed to translate their superiority into goals.
But they took the lead 10 minutes in to the second half.
Rafael van der Vaart picked out Adebayor in the box, he held the ball up and fended off three Norwich defenders before squaring to Bale.
The Welshman got the ball out from under his feet to shoot under Ruddy after being left unmarked 12 yards out.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto found Kyle Walker unmarked at the back post after a clever one-two with Modric but the former Sheffield United right-back cleared the bar by at least 10 yards with a poor shot.
Adebayor converted Assou-Ekotto’s cross soon after but the Togo striker’s effort was ruled out for offside.
Bale grabbed his second of the game to make it 2-0 in the 67th minute.
Scott Parker won the ball off Steve Morison and laid the ball to Modric, who sent the Welshman galloping through on a 45-yard dash.
Bale kept his composure after a heavy first touch before dispatching the coolest of chips over on-rushing Ruddy, who dove at the winger’s feet in vain.