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Bale reminds Spurs of his best in comfortable win, Leicester well-placed to reach last 16 after away stalemate

Matt Doherty helped Jose Mourinho’s side to a 4-1 Europa League win against Wolfsberger.

Gareth Bale on the ball.
Gareth Bale on the ball.
Image: Laszlo Balogh

GARETH BALE REMINDED Tottenham of what he can offer as he registered a goal and an assist in a 4-1 Europa League win against Wolfsberger.

The Wales international has been a shadow of his former self since his loan return from Real Madrid and looked to have fallen out with boss Jose Mourinho last week after making himself unavailable for the FA Cup game at Everton.

But he was restored to the side for the last-32 first-leg tie in Budapest and put in his best display since returning to the club, as he set up Son Heung-min’s opener and then doubled the lead with a fine goal.

Lucas Moura put Spurs further in front before the break and Carlos Vinicius added a late fourth as they put one foot in the last 16, despite the mysterious absence of top scorer Harry Kane who did not travel to the Hungarian capital for the game.

Mourinho’s side offered the Austrians, the lowest-ranked club left in the competition, some hope as Michael Liendl scored a second-half penalty, but they should face little resistance in finishing the job in next Wednesday’s second leg.

Spurs had encountered some difficulties on away trips during the group stage and Mourinho was not taking any chances as he named a strong side, even if Kane did not make the trip.

They fired an early warning in the opening five minutes as they hit the Austrians – forced to make a six-hour coach trip to Budapest – on the break and could have led.

Son won possession and darted towards goal, but with Dele Alli and Bale both free he opted to shoot, with his effort curling just wide.

The reprieve was short-lived, though, as Son got his goal in the 13th minute.

A good move saw Ireland’s Matt Doherty play in Bale and the Wales international picked out Son, who headed home into the far corner for his 18th of the season.

This was a big opportunity for Alli, who was handed his first start since clear-the-air talks with Mourinho, and he took it with an impressive showing in the number 10 position.

A sublime piece of skill almost saw him get on the scoresheet as he nutmegged a defender and got a shot away but goalkeeper Alexander Kofler made a block, with Eric Dier heading the resulting corner over.

Spurs were looking a threat every time they came forward and doubled their lead just before the half-hour as Bale announced himself with the best piece of play since he returned to the club.

Doherty again played in the Welshman and he cut back inside onto his left foot, leaving Jonathan Scherzer for dead before lashing a shot into the far corner.

Hugo Lloris had earned some criticism for costly errors in recent matches, but he reminded everyone of his shot-stopping ability to keep his side’s 2-0 lead intact.

The France captain produced an acrobatic one-handed save to tip Dario Vizinger’s header onto the crossbar.

And two minutes later it was 3-0 as Moura produced a superb solo goal.

The Brazilian picked up the ball on the left and danced past three players into the penalty area before firing low into the bottom corner.

Bale was looking sharper than at any other point so far this season and could have scored a second soon after the restart but his low shot after a jinking run was kept out by Kofler.

Spurs then allowed Wolfsberger a route back into the tie as Moussa Sissoko needlessly clattered into Christopher Wernitznig and Liendl converted from the spot.

They were unable to recreate their free-flowing verve from the first half and the woodwork came to their rescue again soon after as they were cut open and Wernitznig’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced clear.

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Mourinho’s men killed the game in the 88th minute as Vinicius, a half-time substitute for Son, poked home from close range after Erik Lamela had glanced on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s cross.

Elsewhere this evening, Leicester City drew 0-0 at Slavia Prague in their clash.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are in pole position to reach the last 16 of the Europa League after the away draw, the stalemate ensuring the Foxes left the Eden Arena favourites to progress.

czech-republic-soccer-europa-league Slavia's Nicolae Stanciu and Leicester's James Maddison challenge for the ball. Source: Petr David Josek

Rodgers has never reached the last 16 of the competition after four attempts with Liverpool and Celtic.

But after a draw in the Czech Republic the Foxes will be confident ahead of next week’s second leg at the King Power Stadium.

Harvey Barnes was denied by Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar in the first half but the visitors struggled to maintain their threat after the break.

They needed Kasper Schmeichel to turn Nico Stanciu’s drive over as the hosts were also left frustrated.

The Foxes started well as Marc Albrighton shot wide and James Maddison fired over inside the opening four minutes.

Nine minutes later Youri Tielemans’ crossfield ball released Barnes ahead of Alexander Bah and the winger burst into the box only to be denied by Kolar from close range.

Yet it was the only serious chance the Foxes carved out in the first half at the Eden Arena.

The Czech champions created brief openings, with Bah heading the best of them wide at the far post, but they were restricted despite 14-goal top scorer Abdallah Sima’s endeavour.

In a reflection of the half Leicester snatched at their other chances as Barnes hooked wide and had penalty claims waved away while Tielemans dragged wide just before the break.

They remained positive – especially with in-form Barnes’ relentless desire to go forward – until losing their momentum after the break.

Slavia unsettled the Foxes, Schmeichel gathering Stanciu’s free-kick, before the Romania international forced the goalkeeper to turn his 25-yard drive over after 58 minutes.

It was a marked difference from Leicester’s first-half display where, while they were never dominant, there was always a degree of control.

That had been lost and with Jamie Vardy suffering a rare off night he was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho just after the hour.

The striker, though, was immediately booked after catching Jakub Hromada and will miss next week’s second leg.

James Maddison came off for Hamza Choudhury 12 minutes later as Rodgers ensured Leicester held firm.

- Updated 20.37

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