Some people think the great players don't need to practice. Tonight, Gareth Bale showed us that notion is pure horse pucky. He has, it is fair to assume, worked for hours and hours on an unorthodox free-kick technique that brought him two brilliant goals tonight and gives Spurs a crucial lead. The timing and nature of the winner were wonderfully theatrical. Thanks for your emails; night.
Full time: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Lyon
That is glorious football from Gareth Bale. It was a similar technique to the one in the first half, with the ball wobbling both ways more than once before ripping past Vercoutre's dive and into the net. It wasn't in the corner like the first one – in fact it was fairly central – but it moved so much that Vercoutre had very little chance. That's stunning. For 89 minutes of this game he did nothing, and he has scored two brilliant goals to win the game.
GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Lyon (Bale 90)
90+2 min Bale has been fouled 22 yards from goal, slightly to the right of centre. This might be the last kick of the game ...
90+1 min Bale, running away from goal to the right of centre, shifts back infield and hits a left-footed shot that is a bit too straight and is punched away melodramatically by Vercoutre. Jake Livermore comes on for Scott Parker.
90+1 min There will be three minutes of added time.
90 min Bale, who has done so little all half, goes on a fantastic run down the left and whips a superb ball right across the six-yard line, with Adebayor and Holtby unable to get there.
88 min Lisandro Lopez is replaced by Rachid Ghezzal.
87 min Spurs aren't going to score here. Lyon have been superb second half. Then again, no need for Spurs to panic; they will play better than this in the second leg next week.
86 min "If Dan Hamilton really wants to be treated with disdain, he should become a Norwich City fan," says Jessica Macdonald. "It's not just The Guardian that ignores us, it's every media outlet in the country."
Does Norwich even exist?
85 min Dan Hamilton is back. "My first born arrived. No chance of abandoning my wife that summer. And we had bought a lakefront cottage a couple of years earlier that needed some attention. A second child's arrival in '94 cut short my time in the States." Mine too big guy.
84 min It's been one of those nights – ouch! – for Spurs, when they just haven't quite got going. AVB's plan to bring in subtler footballers in Holtby and Sigurdsson is a good one, and there is a slight sense that they are building a bit of pressure. It would help if Emmanuel Adebayor broke into a walk every now and then.
83 min Steed Malbranque is applauded off by both sets of fans as he is replaced by Clement Grenier.
82 min It's the exclamation mark that makes that email so brilliant. Nothing is happening on the pitch by the way; lots of huff and guff from Spurs.
81 min I don't know where to start with this email, except to say that, in its own way, it's beautiful, no matter what they say. "Great point by Sally – preach it sister!" says Ryan Dunne. "This is why we need more girls on MBMs. It's a feminist issue."
80 min A Spurs substitution, with Gylfi Sigurdsson – remember him – replacing Aaron Lennon. Guelda Fofana is booked for dissent.
79 min Holtby tries a killer pass to Bale, overhitting it just fractionally. Bale applauds the idea. There's a bromance developing there; two very good players on the same wavelength.
77 min "Dan Hamilton's email raises more questions – one – than answers," says Paul Neilan. "What happened in 1990? Why didn't he cover that World Cup. Tell us, Dan!!! On today of all days."
76 min Spurs are literally banging their head against a brick wall.
75 min "Seeing as you're having to contend with grumpy MBMrs, can I be another one and just say that the TV focusing on the couple in the crowd (on today of all days) and the accompanying commentary that's saying he's dragged her along against her will is seriously teeing me off," says Sally Ledger. "She might have dragged him along. Or they might both be very happy to be there. Sexism is alive and well in football. What a surprise!"
74 min Lyon have been superb in the second half, and Spurs have the collective face on.
73 min "Stevie Nicks?" says Gary Naylor. "And you thought Mario Balotelli was high maintenance..."
Naylor, I know you are one of the most enviable, charismatic men alive, but surely not even you went out with Stevie Nicks?
72 min "Dan Hamilton seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that you know nothing of football, being a cricket scribe," says Phil Sawyer. "Having watched you and Jonathan Wilson bully a football quiz machine into a state where it was reduced to asking questions about obscure 1980s second division Scottish goalkeepers to try to get the better of you, I feel that I can definitively state that this is not the case."
I've never been one for false modesty, and it's true: we owned that quiz machine more than Guardian readers own the weekend.
71 min A very dangerous low cross from Walker is desperately cleared by Lovren at the near post. Eventually Spurs win a corner. And then another corner. Which yields the square root of eff all.
68 min A low free-kick from the right is flicked on at the near post and scorpion-kicked speculatively by Lovren. It drifts comfortably wide of the far post.
67 min Lewis Holtby replaces the ineffectual Clint Dempsey.
65 min After a bit of a scramble in the Lyon area, Bale's sidefooted snapshot from 15 yards is punched away unconvincingly by Vercoutre. That wasn't a bad chance, and had it been either side of the keeper it might have gone in.
62 min Friedel makes a vital save. Lacazaette charges infield from the right, beating three players in a brilliant, sinuous run, and hits a rising left-footed drive from the edge of the area that is tipped over by Friedel. He showed great agility for a septuagenarian. Lyon are in total control at the moment.
62 min "One Fine Day," says Paul Neilan. "End of." Your credibility? (I realise the internet isn't great for gauging the tone of a comment, but I say that with love. On today of all days.)
61 min That goal has winded Spurs – not just the fact of it but the act of it as well. They would take a 2-1 win now, surely.
59 min "Ignorant of the industry?" says Dan Hamilton. "Far forking from it, sunshine. Covered the '82, '86 and '94 World Cups. I know lazy and indifferent management when I see it. Can't imagine sticking some football-orientated plodder on a cricket thread. Not that you're a plodder. This ain't a personal gripe. Let your boss know."
Yes but they were all 20-30 years ago. When the internet didn't exist. Look I take your point – and this isn't personal either – but I really think you are missing the point. Let's agree to disagree and enjoy an excellent football match with two outrageous goals.
57 min You know how, when you have your first bite of a Hawksmoor steak, you burst out laughing at how good it is? When that goal went in, the ITV co-commentator Andy Townsend burst out laughing.
Malbranque put over a brilliant cross from the right that was superbly headed away by Gallas, facing his own goal. It bounced twice on its way to Umtiti, who was right at the left corner edge of the box, and he struck the most magnificent left-footed half-volley that roared across goal and into the far top corner. Friedel did not move. Half-volleys are intrinsically cleaner strikes than the rest; even so, that was glorious.
GOAL! Spurs 1-1 Lyon (Umtiti 55)
Oh my goodness, what a goal. What a goal.
54 min Lisandro clips a dangerous left-wung cross towards Lcazaeete, who falls over under pressure from Assou-Ekotto. There was a bit of an appeal for a penalty; it looked like a fair challenge.
52 min "Annie Hall works for me, Rob," says Guy Hornsby. "I mean, think of the alternatives. Sliding Doors? The Love Guru? What's the worst "Rom" "com" you could choose for tonight? (PS. Come on Spurs!)"
On a pound-for-pound basis – and of the top of my freshly massaged head – I'd go for Serendipity, because John Cusack is in it, and he should be/is/used to be better than that.
50 min Gomis's deflected shot from the edge of the area is comfortably saved by the sprawling Friedel. He hasn't had much to do today, but there has always been an air of counter-attacking menace from Lyon.
49 min "Lyon's shirts - blue/black, whatever (actually black, if that matters)," says Phil Booth. "They're 3D. Seriously. Don't know what on earth they were thinking..." Who needs Ann Summers?
48 min Walker is booked for leaving a foot in on Umtiti, who went down in apparent pain. I don't know if he touched him actually, though his studs were showing so he may have been booked for that.
47 min "Happy Valentine's Day Rob!" says Holly McGuire. "You seem to be having a tough night: between the S. Prague game and surly e-mailers now. So, I’m pausing from my late lunch to say I always enjoy your MBMs. (Scarily, though, the last time I commented on an MBM was last month during another match where Ryan Dunne was calling out for “girls” to participate)."
Oh that's okay; that happens on every single MBM.
46 min Lyon kick off from right to left. Here's a question: where will Gareth Bale be playing next season? I really hope it's at Spurs, but I don't know. He has a shot blocked by the keeper Vercoutre within 20 seconds of the restart, though he'd been flagged offside.
"Clearly, I'm just breaking off from my date tonight to send you this missive so I will keep it brief," says Stevie Nicks. On this night, of all nights, I feel it appropriate to confide in you my immense man-love for AVB. The sheer joy he takes from goals is a refreshing change to the usual staid-faced expressions or furious notepad-scribbling employed by his peers. You get the impression he will never be a media-favourite like Jose, but if I was a Spurs fan, like you, I would be delighted to have him in charge."
How can you mention Stevie Nicks. On today of all days. (I agree though, AVB is great. A man who, unlike so many modern managers, has football in his soul. His celebration after the win at Old Trafford was one of the highlights of the season.)
"I imagine this friction between you and Dan Hamilton as an about-to-escalate-crazily bar-room ruckus over the cute girl in the corner," says Matt Dony. "It seems fitting today. Put the glass down, Rob, you don't want yet another night to end like this..."
That Bale goal gets better the more you see it. As the ITV chaps have said, the way his foot approaches the ball suggests it will go the other way – and that's why Vercoutre put his weight on the wrong foot – but then he stunned the ball to send it swerving from right to left.
Half time: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Lyon
An excellent half of football between two accomplished sides. All it needed was a goal; Gareth Bale – who had a poor half by his stratospheric standards – provided it with a superb free-kick just before the break. See you in 10 minutes.
That's a wonderful goal. The free-kick was fractionally right of centre, and Bale cut across the ball so much that it swooshed, dipped and bounced just inside the left-hand post. At first it looked like a misjudgement from Vercoutre, because it wasn't travelling that quickly, but the more you see it the more you realise it was doing all sorts – and it ended up right in the corner. The comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale might be pushing it, but they certainly share an unorthodox and devastatingly effective free-kick technique. Brilliant goal.
GOAL! Tottenham 1-0 Lyon (Bale 45)
The inevitable Gareth Bale scores with a fine free-kick from 30 yards.
42 min "Maybe there should be MBM specialists!" says Ryan Dunne. "If you want some fair and biased Glorious Glasgow Rangers MBMing, you know who to call. ;)"
For once, I think a smiley is fair enough. Here's a question, for those who hate smileys, LOL and the like: would you use them in return if the person you loved used them on you? Is that the ultimate test of love? (Clue: no.)
41 min "Did Dembele have a sliderule, for that pass?" says Greg Whitmore. "I favour a protractor or possibly a pair of compasses."
Fair point. I sometimes think football writers should be cattle-prodded in the genital area every time they use a cliche. It'd soon cut out '110 per cent'.
40 min Gomis wriggles away from a defender 20 yards out and then drags a fairly tame shot wide of the far post. Lyon look lively on the break.
37 min Gareth Bale misses an open goal. Walker surged down the right, into the area, and then hit a quick low cross towards Bale at the far post. The ball took the keeper Vercoutre out of the game, but Bale, six yards out, couldn't get his left foot round the ball enough to tape it into the net. Instead he sidefooted it back whence it came, and it hit Adebayor beyond the far post before bouncing back into Vercoutre's hands. Bale should surely have gone with his right foot – although it wasn't a totally straightforward decision as there was a different in close proximity and he hasn't used his right foot since 1987.
36 min A long ball is flicked on by Bale towards Adebayor, who is penalised for shoving the last man Lovren. The right decision. I think.
36 min "A cricket man?" says Dan Hamilton. "Sorry to chuck one Bodyline at you, but your very presence on MBM today pretty much makes all my points about the Guardian's disdainful coverage of Spurs."
Nah. With sincere respect, it says more about your ignorance of how the industry works. Nobody in the world has MBM specialists for particular teams/
35 min "Seeing as its Valentine's Day, can I say a big thank you to all Guardian MBMers for saving my marriage," says Simon McMahon. "I ran out of things to say to my wife years ago but the amount of time I spend on the Guardian website has kept us together, as I cannot find the time to have an affair. God help me if she reads this, though. Nah, I would need to post it on Facebook for that to be the case."
You know how Championship Manager has been cited in umpteen divorce cases? It can't be long before Gary Naylor and Ryan Dunne are similarly mentioned.
34 min A sharp Lyon attack ends with Fofana playing to Lisandro in a decent position on the left of the box, but his touch is poor and the attack fizzles out.
33 min I suppose some people would say this is a boring game, in that there haven't been many chances. But there has been a lot of good, positive play, and an urgency from both sides that sets it apart from – to pluck an example at random – that utter filth involving Sparta Praguge and Chelsea earlier today.
30 min Andre Villas-Boas has just a demonstrative moan at some flunky – because the gate between the advertising hoardings didn't work properly after he went to the touchline to give some instructions. That was lovely. He had a genuinely affronted coupon.
29 min Bale hasn't imposed himself on the game as yet. It's a completely different position, particularly in terms of the angle and position at which you receive the ball, and I wonder if Spurs might be tempted to move him back to the left for a wee bit.
28 min "Re: 24 min," says Ethan Dean-Richards. "So you're biased to Spurs, then. Knew it. Effing disgrace."
27 min A good chance for Adebayor. Dembele, to the right of centre, played a stunning sliderule pass from just inside the Lyon half that took three or four defenders out of the game. Adebayor, on the edge of the box, ran away from his marker Bisevac and swept a first-time effort just wide of the near post. It wasn't an easy chance to take because the pass was hit with pace, and it probably goes down as a good effort rather than a bad miss.
24 min "So you haven't seen much of Spurs this season, Rob?" says Dan Hamilton. "Pretty much status quo for most Guardian scribblers. Top four the past two seasons, new stadium about to go up shortly, best player in Britain. I'd say doing fine without you lot. Why not take the rest of the game off?"
Postman miss you out today, did he? I spend most of my time writing about cricket; hence I don't see much football. What do you want me to do, get a season ticket? Watch every Spurs game during my time off? I like Spurs, and especially their manager, as was made abundantly clear to all bar the most intractable conspiracy theorists in the preamble to this MBM report.
21 min Bale swings the resulting free-kick right under the Lyon crossbar, where Lovren heads away well.
20 min Umtiti is booked for fouling Lennon down the Spurs right.
18 min "As I remember Spurs got battered 0-0 in Porto and went through courtesy of that goal 22 years ago," says John Tumbridge. "22 years seems a very long time ago right now." I thought they won 3-1 at home and then drew 0-0 (after being battered) away from home, but I might be wrong. Portuguese football was pretty powerful back then – Benfica smashed Arsenal the same season in the European Cup.
16 min A deep corner from Malbranque is met by a towering header from Lovren beyond the far post, but it's straight at Friedel. This is a good, classy game.
15 min That should have been a penalty for Lyon. Gomis burst into the area on the right, came back inside Vertongthen and then went down. Andy Townsend says there wasn't enough contact but I disagree. Vertonghen dangled a leg a little absent-mindedly and made contact with Gomis, knocking him over. Maybe Gomis exaggerated it; I don't know. I'd have given a penalty.
14 min Bale hasn't done much yet. It's an intriguing experiment, this. There aren't that many precedents for power wingers becoming No10s. Even if it doesn't work in the long run, it will surely improve his overall game.
13 min "I imagine Ryan Dunne as the insane brother Christopher Walken plays in Annie Hall," says sanity's Ethan Dean-Richards, "who tells Alvi Singer (you) about his insane driving fantasies. Alvi shrugs them off with a joke but then ends up having to get a lift to the airport from him. Could happen to you."
How could you bring up Annie Hall, the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl. On today of all days.
12 min Fofana scorches a shot not far over the bar from 25 yards. Friedel had it covered.
11 min Spurs are wearing the trousers, to continue an analogy that doesn't really work anyway. And they're actually wearing shorts, so I've ballsed that up completely.
10 min Spurs have dominated the first 10 minutes, with Lyon playing on the counter for now. As you'd expect, with the roles of home and away sides being as pronounced as gender roles.
9 min Walker slings a deep cross to Bale, beyond the far post, and he slashes a volley high over the bar. We've seen him score like that before, an awesome goal away at Stoke last season, but he couldn't quite over it that time.
8 min A highlight from Spurs' European history – this wonderful team goal against Porto 22 years ago. Clive Tyldesley was commentating then, too.
7 min "Re: Ryan Dunne's request," writes Phil(ippa) Booth. "I watched that Chelsea game too, so figured I'd email if it helps cheer you up a bit.If anything interesting happens, let me know, I'll switch over (keeping an eye on Mapou in the Newcastle game for now). Stay strong."
This game has had more intensity in seven minutes than the Chelsea game did in 90. I feel chipper now. It wasn't a nervous breakdown after all!
6 min "Obviously us Real Name, No Gimmick MBM-emailers are a cut above the below-the-line bile-spewers," says Ryan Dunne, "but, if it's a slow night tonight, you could always resort to this."
Oh that's wonderful. If more than a little flattering.
5 min A slick, one-touch Spurs attack ends with Assou-Ekotto's cutback being stabbed just wide of the near post by Reveillere. That could easily have gone into his own net.
4 min Spurs' formation is not as advertised. Bale is playing behind the front man, with Dempsey on the left. This experiment with Bale infield is fascinating, and might take him to another level of excellence. Or it might ruin his entire life; you can never tell with these things.
3 min The camera angle for Spurs' home European games is terrible – much lower than usual. I forget the exact reason but it's something to do with money/sponsorship/selling football's soul for 12p and a packet of Chewits.
2 min "Nobody loves emails from me more than, er, me Rob, but – since it's Valentine's Day – any chance you print lots of emails from girls as well as/instead of my missives?" writes – yep – Ryan Dunne. "Worst comes to the worst, make them up!"
"RYAN DUNNE IS SO DAMN HOT," writes Cindy Crawford. "But do you know if he's a Celtic fan who hates Star Wars, because those are kind of dealbreakers for me."
1 min Peep peep! Spurs are playing from right to left; they are in white, Lyon in dark blue, or maybe black, I'm not sure.
Tottenham Hotspur (possible 4-2-3-1): Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto;, Parker, Dembélé; Lennon, Dempsey, Bale; Adebayor.
Subs: Lloris, Naughton, Dawson, Caulker, Livermore, Holtby, Sigurðsson
Lyon (possible 4-2-3-1): Vercoutre; Reveillere, Lovren, Bisevac, Umtiti; Gonalons, Fofana; Lacazette, Lisandro, Malbranque; Gomis.
Subs: Lopes, B. Koné, Dabo, Grenier, Ferri, Ghezzal, Benzia
Referee: Pedro Proença (Portugal)
What are you looking at? Do you want some? I haven't seen much of Spurs this season. How good can Gareth Bale become? Are we talking potential greatness? (I mean true, Ballon d'Or-bothering greatness, not Rooney greatness.)
“Thursday night, ITV1.” The fact ITV have cleared How My Depressed Dog Learned To Love Life and Bonios again from the schedule on their main channel – or whatever they were due to show – tells us that, while this is a last-32 Europa League fixture in name, in nature it is something grander.
The refreshing Andre Villas-Boas, one of the few modern football managers with the acute understanding that glory is more important than a little bit of money, is desperate to win this competition. Lyon aren't quite what they were during their 2000s peak, but they are still second in Ligue 1, with former Spurs player Steed Malbranque playing brilliantly after taking a year out of the game (“performance-enhancing rest”, as Gideon Haigh put it in reference to Shane Warne). They also have the excellent Bafetimbi Gomis, who is nicknamed the 'Baby Drogba' and has, like every other footballer on the planet, been linked with Chelsea.
The winners' reward is a humdinger against Internazionale – who Gareth Bale slaughtered in 2010 – or a mehfest against Cluj, in the last 16.
Kick off is at 8.05pm.