SATURDAY 7TH APRIL, 2018
STOKE CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(0)
Spurs' second goal was awarded to Kane after appeal
Referee:- Graham Scott
Assistants:- Gary Beswick, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth official:- Andre Marriner
Stoke (4-4-1-1):- Butland; Johnson (sub Crouch, 78), Shawcross (Capt.), Martins-Indi, Pieters; Bauer (sub Zouma, 90+5), Allen, Ndiaye, Ramadan (aka Sobhi) (sub Campbell, 69); Shaqiri; Diouf
Subs not used:- Haugaard; Cameron; Ireland, Fletcher
Booked:- Pieters (foul on Dele), Johnson (foul on Rose), Martins-Indi (foul on Kane), Ndiaye (pushed Rose)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama (sub Dier, 82), Dembele; Eriksen, Dele (sub Sissoko, 90), Son (sub Lamela, 67); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Davies; Lucas Moura; Llorente
Booked:- Aurier (foul on Diouf), Kane (Kicked ball away), Rose (pushed Ndiaye)
Another run ends, but Spurs consolidate their position with a win.
I wouldn't exactly call it "winning ugly", but thanks to Stoke being allowed to persistently foul, often without punishment, and certainly without the right number of cards, Spurs were somewhat unsettled at times, to say the least.
For the second week running, we ended a run. Last week it was the Chelsea hoodoo which came to an end. This week we failed to beat Stoke by four clear goals after four successive wins by that margin. This was though our fifth consecutive win against Stoke, who remain in the bottom three, very much at risk of relegation
Still, however niggly, or tricky, a win is a win, and we are level on points with Liverpool. This was in fact our sixth consecutive league win, and our 14th Premier League game without defeat.
Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to the team which started at Stamford Bridge last week. The full backs were rotated – perhaps unnecessarily in my view, and potentially expensively when you consider Aurier’s foul on Diouf in the second half right on the edge of the area, for which he got booked. Victor Wanyama got the nod in Dier’s position, with Eric on the bench. When Dier did come on as a late substitute, he failed to pick up the pace of the game, and made a couple of big errors, one of which was so nearly costly. The fourth change was anticipated with Harry Kane returning to the starting line-up. Erik Lamela was the one chosen to make way for Harry, with Son reverting to the wing.
Stoke have always been a physical side, and today was no exception. They did gather some late bookings, but during the bulk of the game referee Graham Scott, whilst irritating the hell out of the home crowd because he did give a number of fouls, did not show enough cards in my view when warranted. Dele Alli was a target of the home crowd for being a “cheat”, and yet Pieters did see yellow for a heavy challenge in the first half. Danny Rose was also consistently booed by the ever-vociferous home crowd, but he also took more than his fair share of stick. In fact, at a time when I believe only two cards had been shown to Stoke players the referee had a word with Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, presumably over the persistent fouling by his men.
Stoke had their chances, particularly in the second half, and press reports describe their endeavour and even hard luck at failing to score more. However, Spurs were clearly the better quality team, but should have had the game by the throat a lot earlier, instead choosing to bide their time.
The game was preceded by applause for Ray Wilkins, capped by England 84 times, and a long time servant to football. Spurs fans even chanted “Only One Ray Wilkins”, which is quite something when you consider his Chelsea antecedents. Black armbands were also worn by the players and officials. Spurs kicked off, and played towards The Boothen End, away from their fans. Dembele was prominent early on and was surely fouled as he approached the Stoke area, but that was one which went un-punished. After 7 minutes Wanyama pushed the ball out to Kane on the right. Harry hit a cross/shot which reached Son beyond the back post. Son tried, but failed to make anything of the chance to extend the attack. I found Son wanting too often today in the face of close physical attention, but at times he linked well with the rest of the front four.
The Stoke fans laughed when no foul was given for another offence against Dembele, this time in his own half. Lloris cleared the ball and Harry Kane headed it on to Son, who was on the left of the box; had his shot blocked, and again failed to develop the attack. Stoke responded through Pieters, who crossed low from the left but Diouf fired well over the target. Lloris found Vertonghen with his goal kick, inside the spurs half, and Vertonghen sent a long diagonal ball which Pieters failed to deal with now in his half. The ball ran to Eriksen, who was free on the right. Eriksen hit his right footed shot too high and wide. In another move Kane found Eriksen but the cross was simply collected by Butland. Spurs had a free kick on the left, taken by Eriksen with his right foot, but just over the far post.
Mid-way through the first half Aurier won a header which enabled Eriksen and Dele to move forward and feed Son who was one on one with Butland. Once again the goalkeeper came off best, saving at short range from Son.
It wasn’t always one way traffic with Shaqiri effective behind Diouf. Jan Vertonghen was supreme at the back once again for Spurs, with Sanchez a pacy and strong partner. Dembele was dominating ahead of the defence too. It was Dembele who fed a ball to Eriksen in an advanced position, but Eriksen’s effort was blocked. Spurs had a useful move with Eriksen passing to Dembele, before Dele pushed the ball to Aurier on the right. Aurier’s shot was easily blocked. The Spurs right back had another cross/shot come to nought before the interval after Son had passed to him from the centre of the field.
Immediately after the break, after Spurs had kicked off Diouf had a chance, after Ndiaye’s ball, but the shot was easily saved by Lloris. Spurs had a corner from the right taken by Danny Rose, but headed over by Wanyama. Spurs took a much-awaited and deserved lead in the 52nd minute. Dembele had put Dele in the clear with a nice through ball from his own half. Dele beat any offside trap or flag and ran clear down the right channel before picking out Eriksen behind him. Eriksen fired low with his right foot to the right of Butland for a 1-0 lead.
Spurs had a half-hearted penalty appeal after Kane fed the ball to Son, who went down in the box with no reward from Mr Scott. Then Spurs took a sucker punch of an equaliser when Lloris came to the edge of his box to challenge Diouf for a long ball, but lost out as his attempt to clear rebounded off the striker, who was able to run the ball into the goal, before he collapsed and needed treatment for injury. There was some delay before Spurs were able to restart the game, which no doubt contributed to the 6 minutes of added time we later had to endure.
It was at this stage when Rose was fouled for the umpteenth time and the referee had word with Shawcross, although he did not book anyone. Stoke were punished though because Eriksen’s free kick from deep on the left floated across the goal and hit the net at the back post. Harry Kane tried to claim a touch (which I did not see) and was announced as the scorer. An initial review by the Premier League awarded the goal to Eriksen, but after appeal by Kane with the club's support, this goal has finally been awarded to Kane, meaning he now has 25 Premier League goals for the season. It also means that Eriksen has now scored three goals in his last three games and 9 Premier League goals this season.
Son was replaced by Lamela who added some desirable physicality to the game, and not a little skill and determination! He did upset Butland though when over-enthusiastically challenging the keeper for a corner ball.
Unsurprisingly, facing defeat and the dire threat of relegation, Stoke fought hard to get back on terms. Johnson had a shot deflected following a free kick on the right (that followed a rash challenge by Sanchez). Paul Lambert introduced 18 year old striker Tyrese Campbell for Ramadan Sobhi, and before too long he had half a chance following a corner. At the other end Johnson was finally booked for a foul on Rose. Eriksen’s free kick reached Aurier beyond the far post, but Aurier was again high and wide. Spurs made a break forward after another Stoke attack. Aurier crossed and Kane’s shot was blocked coming up to Dele, whose header was saved.
Peter Crouch replaced Johnson to cheers from the travelling fans, who sang “You’re Spurs and you know you are”, but “2 metre Peter” proved an awkward customer for the Spurs defence, who generally won the contest. After that foul by Aurier on the edge of the box Shaqiri took the kick which hit the top of the bar and post to the left of Lloris. Now Dier replaced Wanyama, and within two minutes Eric had made a shocking error and Stoke threatened our goal. Spurs initially responded with an Eriksen pass to Lamela whose shot passed just wide of Butland’s left post. Then Spurs had to deal with a little pressure with Stoke forcing a couple of corners.
In the fourth minute of added time Joe Allen met Bauer’s cross, but Hugo Lloris held the attempt with confidence. Ryan Shawcross also had a very late attempt saved, and there was a flurry of yellow cards towards the end of what had become a niggly game. Spurs secured the spoils though and after Manchester City failed to secure the Premier League title in a dramatic game (won 3-2 by United) they will now face a City side next Saturday, who will be as keen as ever to win all three points. That should be another humdinger of a game!
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