Premier League: Tottenham 1 Sunderland 0
By Football News
Gareth Bale struck late on to hand Tottenham victory over Sunderland, but it was not enough to secure them UEFA Champions League football.
The Welsh international was denied a penalty in the first half and booked for simulation, however he had the last laugh with a superb 90th-minute strike.
It was not good enough to guarantee the White Hart Lane club a place in Europe's premier club competition, though, as Arsenal beat Newcastle 1-0 at St James' Park.
However, it did earn Spurs their highest-ever Premier League points total.
Andre Villas-Boas brought back Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back for the crunch clash, with Steven Caulker reverting to the bench.
Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio made two changes, David Vaughan in for Tottenham loanee Danny Rose and Connor Wickham replacing Phil Bardsley.
Bardsley and Matthew Kilgallon were axed from the squad after pictures emerged appearing to show them socialising at a casino last week.
Emmanuel Adebayor tested visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the fifth minute after escaping his marker inside the area.
Tottenham pressed hard for the next 15 minutes, however their final ball lacked the cutting edge needed against a resolute Sunderland defence.
Adebayor nearly played in Bale before the Welshman looked to have been brought down in the area by Sebastian Larsson in the 21st minute.
To the astonishment of the home fans and bench, though, referee Andre Marriner did not award a penalty and subsequently cautioned Bale for diving.
The hosts nearly went a goal down on the half-hour mark when Danny Graham got free on the right and fed Wickham.
The former Ipswich striker managed to evade his marker and turn the ball goalwards, only for Hugo Lloris to palm away his effort superbly.
Bale's goalbound shot in the 36th minute ricocheted off Jack Colback's arm to no avail, with James McClean booked for a nasty tackle on Tom Huddlestone a minute later.
Bale's resulting free-kick forced Mignolet into a smart save, with the Belgian goalkeeper tipping away John O'Shea's wayward header from Bale soon after.
Tottenham started the second half strongly, Assou-Ekotto's cross agonisingly missing two onrushing Spurs players.
Di Canio's visitors went close again in the 50th minute when Lloris palmed away Graham's fierce left-footed shot.
The home side were denied another penalty when Marriner failed to spot a handball from Carlos Cuellar with Huddlestone firing over a few minutes later.
With 63 minutes on the clock, Colback sliced the ball onto his own post from Clint Dempsey's shot and it cannoned out to safety.
Mignolet then clawed away a Michael Dawson header and got down smartly to foil Bale in the 72nd minute as Tottenham increased the pressure.
Billy Knott came on for his Sunderland debut on 74 minutes with Vaughan sent off a few seconds later for a rash challenge on Aaron Lennon.
Mignolet got down well again to deny Bale in the 81st minute with Adam Mitchell also coming on for Sunderland to make his first-team debut.
But it was Bale who proved the difference once again to cap an outstanding season when he fired in a wonderful left-footed strike from distance past Mignolet to cheer the home fans.