Bale knocks the stuffing out of Aston Villa with Boxing Day hat-trick
Premier League: Aston Villa 0 Tottenham 4
Gareth Bale struck a hat-trick as Tottenham gave Aston Villa a Christmas stuffing with four second-half goals on Boxing Day.
Spurs had been held to a goalless draw by Stoke on Saturday and endured a frustrating first period in the Midlands, unleashing 11 shots on target and winning 15 corners in the opening 45 minutes without getting a breakthrough.
However, Jermain Defoe gave the Lilywhites the lead in the 57th minute after a fine pass from Kyle Naughton, and Bale then stole the show with a treble.
The victory took Andre Villas-Boas’ side back into the top four – although they share fourth spot with Everton, who have the same points and goal difference.
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Having seen Chelsea thrash Paul Lambert’s side 8-0 on Sunday, Villas-Boas stuck with his aggressive 4-4-2 formation at Villa Park, with Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor up front.
At the other end of the field, Naughton was recalled at left-back, allowing Jan Vertonghen to move infield to centre-back alongside William Gallas, who also came back into the starting XI.
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There was an obvious gulf in class between the sides from the start, and Tottenham immediately besieged their hosts.
Former Villain Kyle Walker saw a volley deflected wide and Bale’s curling 20-yard effort drew a fine save from keeper Brad Guzan, who flicked the ball over the bar with his fingertips.
Aaron Lennon’s cross forced Chris Herd into an awkward clearance which nearly flew into his own net, and Gallas headed at Guzan from the ensuing corner.
Spurs then created their best chance as Adebayor played Defoe through on goal, but the England man took a heavy touch, allowing the goalkeeper to close the angle and block his effort.
Villa had struggled to get out of their own half and were clearly lacking confidence after their humiliation against Chelsea - but they nearly took an unmerited lead after 30 minutes as the unmarked Matthew Lowton narrowly failed to connect with Joe Bennett’s cross.
Adebayor directed a powerful header at Guzan, but Villa gave their visitors another scare as Lowton delivered a low cross – slightly too hard for the onrushing Brett Holam, who was unable to direct the ball at goal.
The action remained at the other end of the pitch for the remainder of the half, with Lennon seeing a volley bravely blocked by Ciaran Clark and Bale forcing another save from Guzan, but the scores remained goalless at the interval.
Villa looked more threatening immediately after the restart, and Lowton should have done better with a 20-yard effort.
Defoe was denied a shot on goal by a sliding challenge from Herd, but Villa substitute Stephen Ireland and Christian Benteke were also growing in influence at the other end.
The Belgian was deined a one-one-one with Hugo Lloris by a tight offside decision and then forced the Frenchman into a diving save from an Ireland cross before seeing the offside flag raised for a second time.
The match had become less one-sided – but Tottenham then took the lead in the 57th minute as Naughton split the Villa defence with a devastating first-time through ball and freed Defoe, who finished through Guzan’s legs.
Villa sought to hit straight back and Benteke got in behind the Spurs rearguard, but his low ball across the box was intercepted by Sandro – and seconds later the Lilywhites were 2-0 up as Bale latched onto a loose ball, raced through on goal and rounded Guzan.
Villa were beaten, and it was 3-0 in the 73rd minute as Lennon moved infield and played the ball inside to the Welshman, who collected the ball in the middle of the penalty area and fired unerringly into the bottom right corner.
Defoe could also have doubled his tally for the day moments later as Walker found him with a low ball across the box, but the striker skied his first-time effort into the stands.
Villas-Boas introduced Gylfi Sigurdsson and the Icelandic substitute made a rapid impact, getting in behind the Villa defence and squaring for Bale, who fired home his third goal of the game to put the icing on the cake.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker 67), Bale, Adebayor (Sigurdsson 79), Defoe
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs