EPL

When I am happy I play well - Bale glad to be enjoying his football again after netting hat-trick

By Sports Desk May 02, 2021

Gareth Bale says the key to his improved form is down to playing more regularly since Ryan Mason replaced Jose Mourinho as Tottenham boss.

The Wales international scored his second Premier League hat-trick, and first since December 2012, in Tottenham's routine 4-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.

He was a second-half substitute in last week's EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City, but the forward has started both league games under Mason, scoring four times in total.

That compares to five goals in 14 appearances under Mourinho in the Premier League this season, just six of those being starts.

And Bale, who is due to return to parent club Real Madrid at the end of the season for the final year of his contract, is glad to be enjoying his football again.

"You have to take your chances when they come so I'm feeling good," he told Sky Sports. 

"I just needed to play games and get a run of games and I'm doing that now. I'm happy and when I'm happy I play well.

"Winning always makes everyone happy and gives a winning mentality to the dressing room. It's not going to happen overnight but I feel we're taking a step in the right direction.

"It seems a while ago since the last hat-trick so it's nice to get it, but it is more important to get the three points."

Bale's three goals against Sheffield United came from six shots in total, five of those on target as he became the sixth Welshman to reach 50 Premier League goals.

Mason, who follows Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Glenn Hoddle in winning his first two Premier League games as Spurs boss, is unsure if "world class" Bale will stay on.

"That's a conversation for the end of the season," the caretaker boss told BBC Sport. "The priority and main aim now is the next game at Leeds.

"When you score a hat-trick you'll get the headlines. Everyone who has watched football over the past 10 years knows what he can do. His finishing was outstanding."

Son Heung-min rounded off the scoring for Tottenham, having earlier had one ruled out for a marginal offside, as they moved to within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Spurs have won back-to-back league games for the first time in two months and Mason was pleased with the response on the back of last week's cup final loss at Wembley.

"It was a disappointing game last week," he said. "We had a really good training week that allowed us to work with the team. The attitude and desire today was outstanding. 

"To couple it up with some of the quality, it was a really positive performance. The attitude, competitiveness, first balls, second ball, desire to fight for 90 minutes. 

"We stuck together and had some real moments of quality. It was a really pleasing performance and a positive night."

Despite the comfortable margin of his side's victory, Mason felt John Fleck was fortunate to avoid a red card for catching Giovani Lo Celso on the face with his studs early in the second half.

"I am so shocked that it wasn't a red card," he said. "I'm shocked the VAR team didn't at least tell the referee to have a look. I think it's a stonewall red card. 

"I don't think there's a clearer red card. You see the replay once and he's endangered an opponent. I cannot believe it wasn't given as a red card. It's avoidable."

Already-relegated Sheffield United have picked up just four points from a possible 51 away from home this season, losing 15 of their 17 such matches.

United have lost 27 of their 34 Premier League games this season - the most they have ever suffered in a single Football League campaign in their entire history - and caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom is not looking for excuses. 

"Spurs were ruthless on the counter, but where we lost the ball on occasions and how we conceded the goals was poor," he told BBC Sport.

"That is not a performance that we want to see. It was so passive and I can't wait until the fans are back in because in a stadium like this it's absolutely dead. We tried to generate our own atmosphere in the second half but the game ran away from us."

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  • Liverpool must 'rally round' Nunez after red card – Milner Liverpool must 'rally round' Nunez after red card – Milner

    James Milner and his team-mates will "rally round" Darwin Nunez after the striker was sent off on his home debut on Monday, Liverpool's vice-captain has said.

    The Uruguayan was dismissed just before the hour mark at Anfield by referee Paul Tierney during Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace after he reacted to being shoved by Joachim Andersen by pushing his head into the Dane's face.

    The Reds were 1-0 down at the time, but still managed to salvage a point after Luis Diaz equalised Wilfried Zaha's first-half opener with a thunderous effort from all of 25 yards at the Kop end.

    The hosts could have won it at the death, with Mohamed Salah and substitute Fabio Carvalho both going close with volleyed efforts, though Zaha also nearly snatched it at the other end.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Milner said Nunez will learn from his mistake, with the help of his team-mates.

    "I didn't see the incident," the 36-year-old said. "Obviously he's going to be disappointed with that and it's down to us to get round him and rally. I'm sure he'll learn from it.

    "I think the reaction [from the team] was the most important thing. The team reacted very, very well and the ground reacted very well – as they always do – they got right behind us and we could've nicked a winner. It wasn't to be but we move on.

    "That's what good teams do, they get together with disappointments and you stick together. We've got a great team spirit at the club and you don't have to say too much about the fans here. They're obviously incredible and always get behind us, especially when things are tough. They did that and we rallied.

    "It was disappointing not to get the winner but I think the reaction was incredible from the boys – 10 men and kept pushing."

    Liverpool have already lost ground in the race for the title, sitting four points behind champions Manchester City after two games, but Milner is not concerned given the campaign is still in its infancy.

    "It's not the ideal start but you see the readiness for the season and it's obviously a long, long season," he said. "It's not the start we would want but you see the fight there.

    "We've had a week of tough things that have gone on [injuries] and preparation hasn't been ideal. I think it's disappointing but you see the fighting spirit was there and no-one can deny that. We fought until the end."

    Liverpool went into the break 1-0 down despite having 17 shots on goal to Palace's four in the first half, but Milner heaped praise on Diaz for the quality of his leveller in the second.

    "When we had the chances we had and the moments around the box and didn't quite get the break, sometimes you need that moment of brilliance," he added.

    "Obviously when you've got players like [Diaz] on the pitch that can create something out of nothing, it was an incredible goal and hopefully there'll be many more to come this season from him."

  • Klopp concedes Nunez red card 'not the reaction you want to see' after Liverpool draw with Crystal Palace Klopp concedes Nunez red card 'not the reaction you want to see' after Liverpool draw with Crystal Palace

    Jurgen Klopp has said he will speak with Darwin Nunez after the big-money striker was sent off as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace on Monday. 

    The Uruguayan had already endured a frustrating home debut after having five shots with none on target, before seeing red both figuratively and literally just before the hour as he threw his head into Joachim Andersen's face after the Dane shoved him.

    Liverpool dominated proceedings at Anfield despite playing more than a third of the game with 10 men, but were frustrated by a resolute Palace side who could have even taken all three points after Wilfried Zaha missed a late chance.

    Zaha gave the visitors the lead in the first half after running onto a through ball from Eberechi Eze and placing his finish past Alisson into the far right corner.

    Luis Diaz equalised for Liverpool shortly after Nunez's dismissal, beating several players down the left side before cutting inside and smashing a shot into the same corner of the net Zaha had found earlier.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Klopp said Nunez knew he made a mistake, but added he will have to get used to the physicality of defending in the Premier League and react accordingly.

    "He knows that now himself [that he made a mistake] and I will talk to him," the Reds boss said. "It doesn't make too much sense that I speak about it in public. It is absolutely not the reaction you want to see. Centre halves in the Premier League will do that to him, he's a handful himself and yeah, that's not the reaction."

    Klopp was happier with the contribution of his other South American forward, Diaz, whose goal brought Anfield to life as the hosts tried to force a winner, with Mohamed Salah and substitute Fabio Carvalho both hitting volleys narrowly wide in the closing stages.

    "Luis played a super game, especially after the goal, he played like three or four players," Klopp added. "Incredible goal and of course, we needed that, then we had from the edge [of the penalty area] two nice opportunities, one with Fabio, one with Mo, but in the end it's a point."

    The German coach was philosophical despite the fact his team still await their first win of the season, and already sit four points behind rivals Manchester City in the Premier League table.

    Klopp has a number of players missing through injury, including Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip, meaning Nat Phillips had to start in defence with Joe Gomez only fit enough for a late cameo from the bench, while Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are also currently unavailable.

    "[A point is] not exactly what we wanted before the game of course but after this game and all the things that happened, we have to take it," he said.

    "Honestly, the real feeling I have in the moment is I'm proud. Everything that went against us in the week is crazy, it was like a witch was in the building. Every time somebody else had [injury] problems, and putting in such a performance, especially in the circumstances, I am really proud of that."

  • Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace: Nunez sees red as Diaz rescues point with wonder strike Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace: Nunez sees red as Diaz rescues point with wonder strike

    It was a mixed night for Liverpool's South Americans as Darwin Nunez was sent off on his home debut, but Luis Diaz scored a wonder goal to earn a point for the 10-man hosts in a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace.

    A frustrating night for Jurgen Klopp's team appeared to be heading for defeat after Wilfried Zaha's first-half opener and Nunez's dismissal just before the hour.

    Diaz's superb individual effort got his team level, though, before last season's Premier League runners-up set about trying to find a winner but to no avail.

    It represents another early season blow to Liverpool's hopes of running champions Manchester City close again in the title race, already four points behind their rivals, but as with their opening draw against Fulham, it may feel like a point gained for Klopp in the circumstances.

    Liverpool started brightly as they tried to find an early opener, with Nunez mishitting a volley at the far post, while Mohamed Salah also went close to scoring from Trent Alexander-Arnold's pull back, but the Egyptian’s side-footed attempt whizzed just wide of the near post.

    After absorbing so much at the other end, it was Palace who took the lead in the 33rd minute when Eberechi Eze got away from Fabinho before playing Zaha in on goal, with the Ivory Coast international placing his shot past Alisson into the bottom-right corner.

    Liverpool thought they were level just before the break as Harvey Elliott's chip found Nunez down the left side of the penalty area, but his deflected shot came back off the post.

    Things went from bad to worse for Nunez as the Uruguayan reacted to being shoved by Joachim Andersen by pushing his head into the Dane, with referee Paul Tierney immediately producing a red card for the Liverpool striker.

    However, the Anfield atmosphere soon improved as Diaz dribbled inside several Palace defenders before unleashing a rocket of a shot past Vicente Guaita's despairing dive to his left.

    The hosts tried to find a winner despite having fewer players, though Palace could also have won it when Zaha missed a great chance at the far post, but both were forced to settle for a point.

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