BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 12TH MAY, 2013,
STOKE CITY 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)
Referee:- Mr. K. Friend
Assistants:- P. Kirkup & C. Breakspear
Fourth Official:- C Foy
Stoke (4-4-2):- Begovic; Shotton (sub Cameron, 74), Shawcross (Capt.), Huth, Wilson; Adam, Nzonzi, Whitehead, Etherington (sub Wilkinson, 57); Walters, Crouch (sub Jerome, 57)
Subs not used:- Sorenson; Kightly; Jones, Owen
Booked:- Huth (foul on Bale), Begovic, Adam (foul on Vertonghen), Shotton (foul on Bale)
Sent off:- Adam (46 – second yellow for foul on Vertonghen)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Lennon (sub Defoe, 74), Huddlestone, Parker (sub Dembele, 68), Dempsey (sub Sigurdsson, 84); Bale; Adebayor
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Holtby, Carroll
Booked:- Huddlestone (foul on Nzonzi)
Great result sets up a big finale!
Spurs got the result they needed against a typically physical and resilient Stoke side, who even had the audacity to take an early lead, when Nzonzi headed in Charlie Adam’s free kick. Spurs equalised after 20 minutes through Clint Dempsey, who late in the game gave Emmanuel Adebayor the pass that set up a late and crucial winner. Once again Charlie Adam became the villain in a Spurs game, collecting yellow cards either side of half-time, both for fouls on Jan Vertonghen. For much of the second half, Spurs faced a blanket Stoke defence, but they always looked capable of breaking through their wall.
It was a special day at The Britannia Stadium, as all season Stoke have been celebrating their 150th anniversary, and this last home game of the season was the culmination of the festivities. Free shirts had been issued and Stoke’s red and white colours were displayed vibrantly around the stadium, except of course in the full Spurs section. Joint Chairman of the Spurs Trust Darren Alexander was presented with a commemorative plaque before the game, as was an official of the club itself. Such mementos have been distributed to all visiting league clubs throughout the season, but with pre-match entertainment, the home atmosphere had been built higher than I suspect is normal. The players even entered the pitch through a channel of flames!
Andre Villas-Boas selected a defence to combat Stoke’s height and physicality, with Jan Vertonghen moving to left back to accommodate Steven Caulker, making his first start since Everton on 7th April. There was no room for Assou-Ekotto, even on the bench. Mousa Dembele was not fit enough to start, but was a welcome substitute. Clint Dempsey played towards the left, with Bale playing behind Adebayor. The Stoke side included two former Spurs, with Crouch up front and Etherington on the left. Crouch got a fond reception from the visiting fans. Etherington does not get such niceties, ever since he left Spurs for the “bigger club” at West Ham, back in 2003.
Charlie Adam was playing on the right of midfield, ahead of long throw merchant Ryan Shotton, who was fouled by Clint Dempsey after only two minutes. Spurs were made to pay the maximum penalty when Adam took the kick from deep on the right and Nzonzi was able to rise at the near post to head home via Lloris’s attempted save, and the inside of the post. It wasn’t the start we were looking for.
Shortly after the goal, Vertonghen made a good powerful block from Adam’s effort in a central position. At the other end, after a neat exchange pass with Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale moved towards the centre, hitting a dipping shot which Begovic tipped over for a corner. After 10 minutes, Bale received a ball in the middle from Dempsey on the left, and tried a speculative shot, which was well over the target.
Spurs had the ball in the net after 15 minutes after a throw on the left, and a ball from Adebayor. Lennon then fed the ball forward for Dempsey who fired home, but the flag was already up. Dempsey did put us level though in the 20th minute, after a mix up by the Stoke defence. Parker hit a longish diagonal ball towards Aaron Lennon, both goalkeeper Begovic and defender Wilson went for the ball, and it was Wilson’s touch that led to the ball falling nicely into the path of Dempsey on the left, who took the opportunity to fire home into the beckoning goal, inside the keeper’s right post.
Bale hit a free kick wide after 22 minutes, and then drew a foul by Huth who got the first yellow card of the game. Crouch nearly had a chance after 35 minutes, when he just failed to reach Adam’s ball, which Lloris was able to collect. Spurs made a break forward, and Bale and Lennon had another lovely one-two passing move, before a Huddlestone cross led to a corner. After 39 minutes, Spurs had a free kick from the right, taken by Bale, and headed at the near post by Michael Dawson. The goalkeeper saved. Soon after this Huth and Begovic were seen to argue, so all did not appear to be well in the home team.
Adam got that first yellow for a lunge of a high kick at Vertonghen deep inside the Spurs area. Shortly after that, the Stoke fans were baying for a handball decision, but Spurs moved forward in style through Dawson, Walker, and finally Parker’s pass to Bale, whose shot was blocked for a corner.
Gordon Banks was the only Stoke legend that I recognised, but I had missed the half-time introductions of the line-up of former players. Soon after the break, Adam got his second yellow when he brought down the advancing Vertonghen near the half-way line. Thereafter, it was pretty much a backs to the wall effort by Stoke, although they did forge one or two chances as the half progressed. Dempsey had an almost involuntary touch from a corner on the right, and his shot went over the bar. Shortly after that Dempsey beat the offside flag, and passed to Bale, who scooped his shot well over.
Pulis made a double substitution, replacing Etherington with a defender, and Crouch with Jerome. After a Spurs throw on the left, Vertonghen fed the ball to Adebayor. Huddlestone’s shot as saved, and fell to Bale, whose effort was also cleared. Bale had another free kick opportunity after 64 minutes, which went for a corner off the defensive wall. Bale was the target again for a Shotton foul, which got the full back booked, and replaced soon after that by Cameron, just to ensure the home side was not reduced to 9 men.
Scott Parker was replaced by Dembele with a quarter of the game remaining. Vertonghen headed over a Huddlestone free kick, and then Dembele teed up Dempsey, whose shot was tipped over by Begovic. Now Aaron Lennon was replaced by Jermain Defoe, but he didn’t get many touches that I observed. Dembele prodded a great ball through the middle of the defence, and Bale tried a right footed shot which passed just wide.
Adebayor and Shawcross got involved in a little personal vendetta, and referee Kevin Friend had “words” with both. Stoke won a free kick from the left after 79 minutes, taken by Whitehead and headed over by Huth. Spurs responded when Bale carried the ball don the left side, and fed it to Dembele, whose shot went just wide. Within minutes, Spurs got the oh so vital winner, when the ball was fed through to Dempsey towards the right of the area. Clint had time to check to see if the offside flag had been raised (it hadn’t), before crossing hard and low for Adebayor to finish from close range. It was a great moment, and a great win, as Spurs saw out the remainder of the game (plus the four added minutes) in relative comfort to secure their 10th away win in the Premier League this season.
We’ve moved two points ahead of Arsenal, whose game in hand is at home to FA Cup winners Wigan on Tuesday night. We must hope that Wigan display the same form they did yesterday against Manchester City, but whatever happens, fourth place will be decided next Sunday, and it could still belong to Spurs!
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