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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland, Match Report: Penalty Shouts and Fifth Place Tears

Gareth Bale's 88th minute winner sent Spurs out on a high note, but results elsewhere put Tottenham out of the Champions League yet again.

Ian Walton

Tottenham Hotspur came into this match needing a victory and a loss or a draw by Arsenal. Tottenham did their part to help themselves on the way to the Champions League (no thanks to referee Andre Marriner), but the club would receive no help from Arsenal and so, again, finds itself missing out on Champions League football.

The first half of football was one of the more exciting scoreless halves of football I've witnessed all season. The most contentious event, of course, was the decision to book Gareth Bale for simulation.

Tottenham Hotspur started the match on top. Spurs had lots of possession in and around the Sunderland penalty area and the Black Cats were not putting much pressure on Spurs. The home side managed 67% possession in the opening stanza as well as 7 total shots, four of which were on goal.

The marquee event happened in the 20th minute when referee Andre Mariner chose to book Gareth Bale or diving. It really was a case of the Welshman's reputation preceding him as this incident was nailed on as a foul on makeshift right back Sebastian Larsson. The only argument for it not being a penalty is that the contact started outside of the area, but that would still make it a foul. Had a penalty been given Larsson also could have seen himself sent off.

Sunderland got their best chance of the match in the 31st minute when Connor Wickham smashed the ball against Hugo Lloris' chest. I'm not sure the French keeper knew much about the shot, but he was positioned well and was able to make the save.

A few minutes later, Aaron Lennon's cross found Bale, but his shot cannoned against Colback's arm. It was a dubious handball shout and one that got little attention, but left Spurs feeling even more aggrieved. Seconds later, Bale had another chance following a pass from Dempsey, but Mignolet was equal to it.

In the 40th minute, John O'Shea's poor header back almost beat Mignolet and put Spurs a goal ahead. Bale was again involved in the play as he attempted to latch on to the wayward backpass, having been in an offside position, but only managed to toe poke the ball wide of the post due to the challenge of a diving Mignolet.

Sunderland had another excellent early chance after Tom Huddlestone was caught dwelling on ball in midfield. Danny Graham managed to take the ball past Dawson, but Lloris was again able to save the resulting shot.

The second half was equally as exciting. Tottenham Hotspur had another penalty shout turned down, this in the 51st minute. This time Carlos Cuellar's diving block clearly utilized his hand in order to stop a goal-bound shot. Again Marriner saw nothing amiss and told everyone to play on.

Many more shots from Spur resulted in nothing. Sunderland's Jack Colback played an amazing game deflecting seemingly every Spurs' shot and even clearing a couple of the line. James Vaughan was sent off in the 75th minute, but still no breakthrough came for Spurs.

Finally, in the 88th minute Gareth Bale hit an absolute screamer into the top corner of the Sunderland goal. It was his 21st goal of the season, tying Teddy Sherringham's club record for goals in a Premier League season. Unfortunately, it would not be enough for Spurs. Arsenal managed a victory over Newcastle and Spurs missed out on the Champions League by one point.

In the end it was a great season from Spurs. While many will be disappointed to miss out on the Champions League in such a cruel fashion for the second season in a row, we must take solace in the fact that this was a record season for the club. Spurs earned the most points they have ever earned in Premier League history and entertained (and annoyed) us all to the very end.