BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 21ST AUGUST, 2010
STOKE CITY 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2)
Bale, 19, 30
Referee:- Mr. C. Foy
Stoke (4-4-2):- Sorenson; Huth, Shawcross (Capt.), Faye, Collins; Delap (sub Sidibe, 85) (sub Tonge, 88), Whelan (sub Sanli, 63), Whitehead, Etherington; Fuller, Walters
Subs not used:- Begovic; Higginbotham, Wilkinson, Pugh
Booked:- Whitehead (foul on Lennon), Shawcross (foul on Bale), Fuller
Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Ekotto; Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios; Lennon (sub Walker, 87), Bale; Crouch
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Naughton, Bassong; Kranjcar, Rose, Livermore
Gareth Bale – Born to play for Spurs!
This was a fantastic three points for a Spurs side weakened by the absence of several key players including Ledley King, Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe at a venue where it is always intimidating and tough to play. The win was secured thanks to two goals by Gareth Bale, the second of which was a spectacular volley from the left of goal into the far top corner, which is already a candidate for goal of the season. Harry Redknapp adapted his available personnel to play a formidable formation with Peter Crouch alone up front, but supported well from the flanks by Lennon, and in particular Bale. Bale was regaled by the travelling fans with “Gareth Bale – born to play for Spurs” to the tune of Bread of Heaven.
The Spurs midfield featured Jenas, Huddlestone and Palacios in combination, with Kaboul partnering Michael Dawson. Surprisingly, the substitute goalkeeper was Alnwick and not Cudicini, so one must assume that Cudicini also has some sort of injury. No doubt some of the Spurs absentees will feature for Wednesday night’s crucial play-off Champions League game against Young Boys.
Stoke featured one of their new signings – 26 year old Jon Walters – who has arrived from Ipswich where he has been playing for 4 years. Walters had an impressive home debut and worked well in tandem with Ricardo Fuller. The new boy also provided the header that gave the game its big moment of controversy, blocked on the line by Peter Crouch and adjudged not to have crossed the line by the officials much to the dismay of the home fans and their connections. Heurelho Gomes was being obstructed as well, as he had been on several occasions during the game, but the infringement was not given either. The linesman did flag for a Stoke offside from a follow-up move, but the moment of controversy had passed. I can honestly say before seeing a replay, that from the other end of the pitch, I have no idea whether or not the ball crossed the line. However, having been clearly cheated at Old Trafford 6 years ago, I happily accept the three points won by Tottenham today.
Ultimately, it was a game of two halves, and whilst Spurs had endured scares in that first half, they had played with some style and panache in the face of the persistent home crowd’s whistles of derision for any opponent touching the ball. Stoke fans as a whole are as hospitable as their local hostelries are to away fans! (i.e. Not at all!)
One of the first scares for Spurs came after a run by Walters to the right bye-line, when his cross was put out not too confidently by Michael Dawson for a corner. Robert Huth – playing at right back for Stoke made a half clearance and Bale had a rehearsal for his second goal with an attempt at a hook shot across the goal, which passed wide. After a Stoke attacking throw, Delap had an attempt on goal but fired over. Delap is treated by the ball boys here like Andy Murray at Wimbledon and given a towel with which to wipe the ball dry before every attempted long attacking throw. It gets tedious for us visitors.
Spurs faced a bit of pressure after a poor touch by Jenas, which led to Fuller having a shot blocked which fell to Walters whose effort was well held by Gomes. Spurs took the lead after a good bit of football, started with a decent ball by Huddlestone from the middle to Lennon who was at this stage on the left flank. Lennon’s ball in was pushed on and it seemed that Crouch got a header, but then Bale got the final touch from close range. Some reports suggest that Bale had two attempts at goal, before celebrating. Stoke were back on terms 5 minutes later when a corner was headed back across the goal from the back post and Fuller headed home, with Gomes suffering some physical attention from red and white striped shirts.
Spurs regained their lead in spectacular style. Some good play forward by Jenas and Palacios led to a ball to Lennon down the right channel. On reflection, I think that Aaron picked out Bale lurking on the left side of the area, and Gareth hit a simply spectacular left footed volley with his foot high, and the shot beating Sorensen in his top left corner. It truly was a shot that no keeper was going to stop, and I admit to shouting “What a ******* goal!” countless times in my personal celebrations!
In defence, Younes Kaboul had a very good game overall, and in my view outshone Dawson, still prone to the occasion slip. However, they were both turned by Walters and Fuller after 33 minutes, and Gomes saved well from Fuller with his hands fully outstretched along the ground. Spurs had a goalmouth scramble which seemed to involve Crouch and Jenas in first half added time.
Spurs’ attacking action was at a premium in the second half, and it seemed the intention was just to hold on to the slender lead. Such action is never much fun for the avid fan, and always vulnerable to a single sucker punch. There was an early corner for Stoke, and thanks to a deflection and a block or two, Spurs survived the early onslaught upon their goal. There was an early exchange of bookings – Whitehead for Stoke and Palacios for Spurs – and Spurs were either struggling or not really trying hard enough to get out of their own half. Even attacking free kicks were forsaken in favour of short and ultimately fruitless passing moves.
Tuncay came on for Whelan and had a number of good chances for the hosts, playing alongside Fuller whilst Walters fell back to the right flank. Spurs had a rare attack when Lennon led a break from the Spurs half, passing to the advancing Palacios who did not make the best use of space available to him. As it was, his ball from the left was too easily cleared. A Tuncay effort after 67 minutes was deflected and well saved by Gomes. Then Shawcross fired over from a corner, before he too got booked for a foul on an advancing Bale. A Stoke cross from the left reached Tuncay, but Gomes was in control of the situation here. Gomes did well to save a Fuller shot with clean hands on the stretch.
Delap was replaced by Sidibe, who suffered a nasty ankle ligaments injury within minutes, and apparently will now miss the whole season. An Etherington shot was deflected then cleared, and Spurs managed to withstand the remaining pressure on their goal in front of the baying home crowd.
So, Spurs gained a second successive league victory at the Britannia Stadium, and a much valued three points. Next week, we host Wigan, currently holding a ten goal deficit. Perhaps we can add to that, but there is no doubt that the club’s major objective at present is to beat Young Boys on Wednesday and progress to the Champions League proper. The bottom line today is “Job Done”!
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