Rusty Bale draws blank for first time in 78 starts in Spurs win

By Sports Desk October 22, 2020

Gareth Bale failed to take a shot or create a chance for a team-mate after starting a club match for the first time since November 2016 as Tottenham beat LASK 3-0.

The Wales forward had made his second Spurs debut from the bench during the 3-3 Premier League draw with West Ham last weekend, but was included from the off as the London club began their Europa League campaign on Thursday.

Bale forced Andres Andrade to put through his own net to make it 2-0 with less than half an hour gone.

However, the on-loan Real Madrid man's influence somewhat waned from there before he was taken off by Jose Mourinho around the hour mark.

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  • Vardy is Leicester's 'best ever' as Iheanacho goes from strength to strength Vardy is Leicester's 'best ever' as Iheanacho goes from strength to strength

    Jamie Vardy will be remembered as Leicester City's greatest ever player, according to his former team-mate Andy King.

    Vardy's goals fired Leicester to an unforgettable Premier League title triumph in 2015-16, when he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and went on to play and score for England at Euro 2016.

    While the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante went on to seek pastures new, Vardy remained as the Foxes' talisman and on Saturday added the club's first FA Cup to their maiden top-flight title when Youri Tielemans' thunderbolt sunk Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

    The 34-year-old's fairy tale ascent from non-league football has been well documented and, with 116 goals, he lies 19th on the Premier League's all-time goalscorers list.

    Vardy will have his eye on climbing a few more places yet, as he is under contract to Leicester until 2023. When the time comes for him to move on, Wales international King believes there will be a virtually impossible void to fill.

    "Everyone wants to know what the secret is or what he's like," King told Stats Perform.

    "But he has no secret over things which he does. You guys know that because he's been telling everyone he drinks his coffee, drinks his Red Bull, he eats what he wants and then he goes out and scores two goals and runs around like a madman.

    "What you see is what you get with him. Like with Wes [Morgan] and Kasper [Schmeichel], first and foremost he has great affection for the club, the people at the club and the owner.

    "He's such a good guy to have in the changing room and to have off the pitch as well.

    "The hole is going to be massive when he leaves Leicester. I think he's Leicester's best ever player. And that's before adding another trophy to the collection.

    "He'll be a hard one to try replace when Leicester have to do that at some point."

    On the other hand, Vardy's goalscoring mantle has arguably already passed, with the veteran playing a supporting role to the prolific Kelechi Iheanacho.

    Vardy's 13 goals in the Premier League this term represent a joint-lowest return since he hit the same number in 2016-17, comfortably below the 23 he netted to win the Golden Boot last term.

    But his nine assists represent a career best in the competition, matching his total from the past two years combined.

    This can, in part, be attributed to a slightly altered role supporting Iheanacho in a 3-5-2 system - their lethal striker partnership taking Leicester to the brink of Champions League qualification, which can be secured in Tuesday's rematch with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

    The former Manchester City striker scored 20 times in all competitions across his previous three seasons at the King Power Stadium but he has exploded into life this time around, with 18 to his name.

    Thirteen of those have come in his past 13 matches and King believes the 24-year-old's patience over the course of a lengthy acclimatisation process has been rewarded with more than just a new contract until 2024.

    "When he first came in, he was in and out of the team," he said. "It must be hard adapting from Man City to go into another team where you're not going to get the chances laid on a plate for you and you're not going to have the ball for 80 per cent of the game. You've got to learn to do the other stuff as well.

    "Kel was a really honest guy, he was trying really hard to learn the system. To start with, Leicester played a 4-3-3 with only one striker and Vards is always going to play.

    "They changed the system when Harvey Barnes got injured, which was a big loss because he was playing really well. I don't know if Brendan said to him, 'Look, I'm going to go to a 3-5-2 and you're going to be my second striker, you know you're going to play'.

    "If that was the case, he certainly rewarded the manager because for the second half of the season he has been absolutely outstanding. He's carrying Leicester at a moment to the top four, scoring goals when no one else was and his all-round play has always been good.

    "Like, anyone when they're playing with confidence and knowing they're going to play the next game, it all falls into place. Strikers go on a hot streak and he's certainly on one of those at the moment."

  • Durant leads tributes for 'phenomenal' Irving after joining elite list Durant leads tributes for 'phenomenal' Irving after joining elite list

    Kevin Durant led the tributes for Kyrie Irving after the Brooklyn Nets guard helped his side to victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers to join an elite list of shooters.

    Irving shot 8-of-10 from the field in Sunday's 123-109 win, was 1-of-2 from three-point range and a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line as the Nets secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

    In doing so, the 29-year-old finished the regular season with a 50.6 field-goal percentage, 40.2 three-point percentage and 92.2 free-throw percentage, making him the ninth member of the 50/40/90 club.

    He also joined Larry Bird, Stephen Curry and Durant as the only players to average at least 25 points per game during a 50/40/90 season.

    Durant put up 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds against the Cavaliers, but he was more impressed by the achievement of Irving - one that he can see his team-mate repeating in the future.

    "It's been a phenomenal season from Ky," Durant said in his post-game interview. "He's a guy who can get it from anywhere on the floor at any time at that size is remarkable. 

    "Point guards that get 50/40/90 is just so much more impressive to me. I'm very happy for Kyrie, and I'm sure this won't be his last time."

    Irving's coach Steven Nash, himself a four-time member of the 50-40-90 club, echoed the views of Durant.

    "Kyrie has been incredible this year," he said. "So efficient, such a talented player who just makes incredible shots every night. 

    "So, to be able to make those shots to create the space to take those shots, to convert at such an efficient rate, is incredible. He's a remarkable player and it's a remarkable accomplishment. I'm really proud that I can see it first hand."

    The Nets were again without James Harden due to injury management, while Joe Harris missed a third straight game with a left gluteal strain. 

    Nash is unsure if Harris will be available for his side's first-round playoff series against either the Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards, but Harden is expected to be available.

    "I think James will be fine, but Joe might need a few days - I'm not really sure," Nash said. "I think it's about monitoring the situation. But there's a case where he may not practice the whole week - that's OK.

    "He's played a lot of minutes this year and we want him to heal up as best he possibly can and kind of not have to chase this thing through the playoffs and have it linger. 

    "So, if we can resolve it I'd rather he resolves it than practice this week. He can follow along and rehab and that would make me happy. But if he's able to practice I'm sure he will."

  • Tielemans tipped to sign new Leicester contract by King after stunning FA Cup final winner Tielemans tipped to sign new Leicester contract by King after stunning FA Cup final winner

    Youri Tielemans has been tipped to sign a new contract at Leicester City by Andy King after writing his name in the club's folklore with his stunning FA Cup final winner.

    The Belgium international scored the only goal of Saturday's showdown with Chelsea in front of 21,000 supporters with a right-foot drive into the top-left corner from 25 yards.

    Leicester survived a nervy finale to win their first ever FA Cup at the fifth attempt, making it one of the most famous days in the Foxes' history.

    Match-winner Tielemans - the third Belgian to score in the showpiece after Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin de Bruyne a year later - was rightly acclaimed after the match.

    The 24-year-old has impressed throughout the season for Leicester, who will now switch focus to trying to nail down a top-four finish and Champions League football when they face Chelsea again on Tuesday.

    Despite rumoured interest from other Premier League heavyweights, former Leicester midfielder King believes Tielemans can achieve all his career aims by staying on at the King Power Stadium.

    "It's important Leicester keep him. Only he will be able to tell you whether it's going to be difficult to keep him because you never know what certain players' ambitions are, but days like Saturday certainly help," King told Stats Perform.

    "He knows he can win trophies at Leicester and he knows he can play in the Champions League - that's what all the top players want.

    "So, you never know, especially with players who aren't from the UK, if they want to play in another country or try something new.

    "But from what I've heard, read and seen, he is really, really happy here, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him sign some sort of new contract in the not-too-distant future. I'm not saying I know he's doing it, but it just seems the right fit.

    "He's probably been Leicester's Player of the Season this year – he has been absolutely outstanding. He's got everything, and for someone so young to score the match-winning goal in an FA Cup final is amazing."

    That stunning Wembley strike took Tielemans' goal tally for the season to nine in all competitions – six of those in the Premier League – and he has also chipped in with four assists.

    The former Monaco midfielder, who has two years to run on his existing deal, is third behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (2,615) and Rodri (2,683) for passes attempted among Premier League midfielders this term with 2,355.

    He also ranks ninth in the division for tackles by midfielders (74), joint-10th for tackles won (39) and joint-11th in terms of chances created (44), underlining his all-round ability in the middle of the park.

    Manager Brendan Rodgers has been credited with getting the most out of Tielemans, who arrived for a reported club-record fee of £40million in July 2019, and King feels the former Liverpool boss can also play a part in keeping the player at the club.

    "He really likes the manager," said King, who won the League One, Championship and Premier League titles during his time with the Foxes. "The manager really likes him as well and he's now playing the best football of his career.

    "He's just won a trophy and [can still get] into the Champions League, so I don't think he will be in any sort of rush to get out of the situation he's in at the moment.

    "The way Leicester are going now, with one of the best training grounds in Europe, plans to extend the stadium, he's going to enjoy all that. 

    "He's young and has plenty of years ahead of him, so hopefully he can sign that new contract and carry on playing the way he is."

    While Tielemans' strike will long live in the memory of Leicester supporters, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel also cemented his status as one of the Foxes' all-time greats with some big saves against Chelsea.

    Schmeichel turned Ben Chilwell's header on to the post and then somehow kept out Mason Mount's powerful shot en route to becoming the first goalkeeper to captain the winning side in an FA Cup final since David Seaman with Arsenal in 2003.

    "Kasper is someone who is made for big moments," King said of his former team-mate. "He is driven to improve himself every day and improve those around him to make sure standards don't slip.

    "He's vocal in the dressing room, and the best thing for us is that he really does love and care for the club. He cares about the owner and the supporters and will do anything to make sure Leicester win a game.

    "He thrives off the big occasion and that save off Mason Mount is world class, an unbelievable save.

    "I was sat right behind the shot, and just the sheer power on it, you think he might get a hand to it, but he's not going to be able to keep it out. He's a world-class goalkeeper."

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