It was a tale of jet-propelled speed, of a battle against frustration and it was marked by a difficulty in finding the answers. This was not Gareth Bale's one-man deconstruction of Newcastle United's resistance at Saturday lunchtime but the story of Emmanuel Adebayor's week, which came complete with a wild finale.
Adebayor's appearance as a 69th-minute substitute came less than 24 hours after he had stepped off a private plane that had been chartered by Tottenham to bring him back from Africa, where his Togo team had gone out of the Africa Cup of Nations the previous Sunday.
It was known that the striker and his team-mates left their hotel in Nelspruit on Wednesday and were bound for the airport in the South African city but thereafter the picture becomes hazy. André Villas-Boas did little to bring clarity when he was asked from where in Africa the club's jet had collected Adebayor. "I'm not sure," the Tottenham manager replied.
The details of Adebayor's missing hours must wait and Villas-Boas was keen to draw a line under the affair, which had served to test his preparations for Newcastle's visit. But he did say he would seek an explanation from the player about his failure to make it back in time for the team's 3pm training session on Friday. "We shall but we're done talking about it publicly," Villas-Boas said.
"He arrived on Friday at around six o'clock, he landed in Luton and so he joined the team at the hotel. First he was authorised to come back on Friday but some issues arose that put that in jeopardy. But he was still in time to make an impact from the bench. Obviously we don't have lots of striker options so it was a sensible decision."
The script called for Adebayor to repay his employers' trust and patience on his introduction, with the game locked at 1-1, and he was involved in the winning goal, although it would be wrong to overstate his contribution and easier to highlight a Newcastle defensive lapse.
After Adebayor jostled with Steven Taylor to get on to Clint Dempsey's punt forward, the visitors' centre-half gestured for his partner, Fabricio Coloccini, to clean up the breaking ball. Except that Coloccini was too slow, which is fatal when Bale is around. The Wales Express nipped in, burned off and beat Tim Krul. Bale deservedly hogged the plaudits, after his 14th and 15th goals of the club season; he has four more at international level. His "world-class" quality was the recurring soundbite and Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager stated that Bale would make his World XI at left-midfield or left-back. Taylor's praise was effusive, even if it strayed into the territory of Colemanballs: "He is one of a kind – he is like Cristiano Ronaldo."
Newcastle felt they deserved a point to prolong their mini-revival and they might have had one but for Bale. They dug out a foothold after Bale's opening goal from a viciously dipping free-kick and, after Yoan Gouffran's equaliser, they were compact and confident. There was concern when Gouffran departed on a stretcher in the 58th minute with a shin injury but the collective assurance boded well. There is a buzz about the dressing room since the January influx from Ligue 1 and a competition for places that Taylor talked up as "healthy".
"Players have been playing in different positions, injuries and suspensions have cost us in a lot of games. We're a small squad and it has taken a toll," Taylor said. "But these lads have come in like a breath of fresh air. If you don't perform, you are out of the side. The gaffer has made that very clear.
"We could see Tottenham getting frustrated. You could tell by their faces and the way they were arguing among themselves. We felt we could have nicked something because of how confident we were and I certainly could not see them scoring. The lads are devastated."
The Europa League will demand the focus of both clubs this week – Tottenham host Lyon; Newcastle entertain Metalist Kharkiv – but Spurs have European elevation in mind. "I definitely came here to play Champions League football," said Lewis Holtby, the January signing from Schalke, who face Galatasaray in the last 16 of the competition. "We're on a very hard route but, with this squad and the whole staff, I think we're able to play in the Champions League."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Matt Boulton