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Villas-Boas salutes hat-trick hero Bale

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BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, December 26 – Gareth Bale was hailed as one of the world’s best players on Wednesday after a quickfire hat-trick steered Tottenham to a 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

The Welsh international scored in the 61st, 73rd and 84th minutes at Villa Park as Tottenham went into fourth place in the Premier League.

“He is up there with the best,” said Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas.

“He is showing tremendous skills and talent, I think he is improving every day – he is such a young player – and he is helping the team. He is one of our major assets.

“The team changes so much from one year to another, and as he keeps learning, he will feel even better and probably his performances will improve. His finishing is very accurate. He has been prolific in front of goal this season and I think he is enjoying getting into those positions.”

Villa were better than in their 8-0 humiliation at Chelsea on Sunday, but their obduracy only lasted until mid-way through the second half, when Jermain Defoe and Bale sprang to life to give Spurs a comfortable win.

Victory took Andre Villas-Boas’ side above Everton on goals scored, while Paul Lambert’s Villa remain three points above the relegation zone in 16th place.

Spurs dominated the first half at Villa Park, dispatching 11 attempts at goal and hitting the target on six occasions, but they could not find a way past Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

The American produced a finger-tip save to prevent Bale from putting Tottenham ahead with a rising drive from 25 yards in the 11th minute, before gathering William Gallas’ header from a corner.

When Spurs did manage to remove Guzan from the equation, his defenders stepped up, as when Ciaran Clark slid in to produce a superb block that denied the advancing Defoe after 25 minutes.

An Emmanuel Adebayor header drew another regulation save from Guzan, although he was made to feel rather more uncomfortable by a wickedly swerving Bale effort five minutes prior to half-time.

Villa improved after the interval but their resistance finally gave way in the 57th minute.

Bale rolled the ball back to Kyle Naughton and the full-back produced a beautifully measured through-ball to find Defoe, who raced through before poking the ball beneath Guzan with his right foot.

Four minutes later it was 2-0, and yet Spurs’ second goal stemmed from a Villa attack.

Christian Benteke tore down the Villa right but he could not pick out a team-mate with his pull-back and the visitors broke.

Bale did brilliantly to keep the move alive after Joe Bennett slid in to thwart Defoe, nipping in front of his man and then masterfully rounding Guzan before steering the ball home with the outside of his left foot.

It was 3-0 in the 72nd minute, Bale collecting Aaron Lennon’s pass and then exploiting the freedom of the Villa area to roll the ball home from 12 yards.

The Welshman took his personal tally to three in the 84th minute, lashing home from substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson’s square pass to leave Lambert’s hapless side with a goal difference of -12 from their last two fixtures.

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