By Jonathan Veal, PA
Gareth Bale scored a stunning hat-trick as Tottenham kept themselves in the Champions League qualification race with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United.
Bale claimed his first Spurs treble since 2012 with a trio of brilliant finishes to move his side into fifth, five points off Chelsea with four games left to play.
Son Heung-min also scored a fine goal as Ryan Mason’s men ran riot against a Blades side whose relegation fate has already been sealed.
We now join teams across England in boycotting social media this weekend, in response to the ongoing discriminatory abuse received by players and others connected to football.
Social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate.
Enough is enough. #StopOnlineAbuse pic.twitter.com/rhpoAG1amZ
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 30, 2021
Bale was unplayable and took his Premier League tally to eight goals in the last eight games, but with that must come a sense of what might have been this season.
Bale was alarmingly under-used by former boss Jose Mourinho, even when he had regained peak condition, and playing with freedom in a front four with Harry Kane, Son and Dele Alli, Spurs were a constant threat and a far cry from the pragmatic style that dogged Mourinho’s era.
It may have come too late to gatecrash the top four this season, but playing like this makes them a strong bet to finish in a Europa League spot.
The onslaught started early as Son forced Aaron Ramsdale into a smart stop, with the Blades goalkeeper getting a strong hand to a low shot that was heading into the bottom corner.
Kane, on the march for a third Premier League golden boot, uncharacteristically missed two chances he would normally convert, first seeing a shot blocked after slaloming into the area and then skying Sergio Reguilon’s pull-back embarrassingly over.
But Spurs finally went ahead in the 36th minute with a moment of quality.
Bale broke from deep to latch on to Serge Aurier’s ball over the top and then sent it past Ramsdale with a cute finish with the outside of his boot.
The Wales international was back in the starting line-up after missing out in the Carabao Cup final and delivered his 12th goal in all competitions.
Spurs were cursing VAR twice in the opening seven minutes of the second half.
First Peter Bankes ruled that John Fleck did not commit violent conduct when he appeared to stamp on Giovani Lo Celso’s face and then VAR ruled out a Son goal, judging the South Korean’s armpit to be in an offside position when he ran on to Toby Alderweireld’s long ball.
The hosts were not denied for long, however, as they did double their lead just after the hour with a devastating counter attack.
After clearing a Blades corner, Son evaded two challenges and sent Bale clear on goal, with the Welshman delivering an emphatic finish into the top corner.
Bale, whose future next season remains unclear, then completed his hat-trick with another moment of quality, drilling in a low effort after a fine team move which involved Alli and Aurier.
Bale’s treble was of a high standard, but Son may lay claim to scoring the goal of the night with 13 minutes remaining.
Son received the ball on the left from Steven Bergwijn, cut inside and sent a curling effort from 20 yards in off the far post.