BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 11TH DECEMBER, 2011
STOKE CITY 2 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Etherington, 13, 43
Adebayor, 62 (pen)
Referee:- Chris Foy
Assistants:- Mr. S Ledger, & Mr. R Pollock
Fourth official:- Mr. A. Marriner
Stoke (4-4-2):- Sorensen; Woodgate (sub Delap, 84), Shawcross (Capt.), Huth, Wilson; Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington (sub Palacios, 88); Walters, Crouch
Subs not used:- Begovic; Upson; Jerome, Fuller, Jones
Booked:- Woodgate, Wilson
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Ekotto (sub Bassong, 46); Lennon (sub Defoe, 46), Parker (Capt.), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Giovani, 88); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Gomes; Corluka; Sandro, Pienaar
Booked:- Kaboul, Parker
Sent off (second yellow card):- Kaboul, 81
Oh for two second halves
Spurs tasted defeat in a Premier League game for the first time since 28th August and 11 games at The Britannia Stadium. Thus Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor also tasted defeat in a Spurs shirt for the first time. On the back of their first half performance, the result was no surprise and fully justified, but if only they had shown the desire, fight and effort that was evident in the second half, throughout the 90 minutes, then surely Spurs would have come away from this game with that recent unbeaten run intact. The other factor in the equation has to be referee Chris Foy, who as I write is attracting the lowest ever grades I have ever seen in one of the Spurs Odyssey votes. (1.6 out of 10 after 252 votes) - See the "Spursometer" here.
Mr Foy seemed to get so much wrong in so many areas today. Younes Kaboul was shown the first red card of Spurs’ season, and that was for a second yellow which seemed harsh. Kaboul’s first card seemed to follow advice to the referee from Andre Marriner who was the fourth official on the touchline, and along with Mr Foy, I have no idea what the card was shown for. Spurs had numerous decent shouts for corners, fouls, even a penalty or two, all to no avail from the deaf ears and unseeing eyes of this referee. It might sound like sour grapes, but as I say, my main point is that Spurs failed to apply themselves at the start of the game to a sufficient degree.
That old “Ex-Spurs” factor well and truly came into play today, with Matthew Etherington taking great delight in scoring both “The Potters’” goals, and Peter Crouch laying on one of those. Jonathan Woodgate was deployed at right back, and knew enough about Gareth Bale to force an early switch of Bale and Lennon, so that Bale was operating on the right wing for a lot of the first half.
Whilst Stoke didn’t have Rory Delap in the starting line-up, it turns out they have another long throw merchant in their squad. This is 23 year old Ryan Shotton, who played right side of midfield, and surprised the Spurs defence with the distance on his throws which were easily as long, if not longer than those of Delap. Both Stoke goals emanated from such situations, preceded of course by the obligatory towel, delay, run-up and eventual delivery. Still, it’s our fault we didn’t deal with the throws well enough.
Spurs had not travelled with their skipper Ledley King, who has now had to sit out the last two games. It was good news though to see Bale starting, and Defoe on the bench. Rather surprisingly, Heurelho Gomes got a place on the bench in favour of Cudicini. The Spurs team was otherwise predictable.
As early as the first minute, Friedel had to make a save from which Walters hit his follow-up into the side netting. Stoke is one of those places where the volume of the PA system and the ferocity of the home crowd gives the away support little chance to be heard. Ekotto had a bit of a mare today and his early mistake gave Shotton a chance, which he fired wide across Friedel’s goal. After 7 minutes, Etherington crossed and Crouch got a shot on target, but straight at Brad Friedel. The first long throw from Shotton led to a Stoke corner. Spurs were hardly getting out of their own half at this stage, and looked nothing like Champions League contenders.
At last though, after 10 minutes, there was some quality Spurs football, starting at the back through Ekotto, and then a swift exchange of touches between Bale and Van der Vaart which led to Bale winning a corner. Nothing came of it though, and Stoke took the lead in the 13th minute after Shotton’s throw, Crouch’s assist and an easy close range finish for Etherington.
Woodgate took an early booking and Lennon was already working the left side, when he cut the ball in for Modric, whose shot was saved by Sorensen, who happily conceded a corner. Subsequently, Van der Vaart released Ekotto with a fine ball, but nothing came of the attack. Adebayor had a decent right footed effort on goal, which again Sorensen saved. Stoke increased their lead just before the break, from another Shotton throw, a Walters flick on, and another close range Etherington finish.
Harry Redknapp made a double substitution and switched to a 3-5-2 formation, with Gallas, Kaboul and Bassong across the back, and Walker and Bale playing as attacking wing-backs. Jermain Defoe played up front, but this meant that Adebayor spent a lot of the game out on the left flank. He often had possession, but of course he then had no target man in the middle! For much of the second half though the pressure by Spurs was relentless, and they should have had more reward than the one penalty goal awarded by Mr. Foy.
Modric sent Adebayor clear with a great ball, and his shot went for a corner. Modric took the kick and Bassong headed well over the target. Modric fed Defoe, whose effort also went way over the bar. At this point there were one or two arguments on the field, mostly between Modric and Bale, who presumably wanted the ball fed to him, rather than Defoe. Walker sent in a decent cross on the hour which won another Spurs corner. Following this, Modric was fouled by Whelan inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty, which Adebayor planted to Sorensen’s left. Whelan didn’t argue much about the penalty, but Modric got booed incessantly afterwards by the home crowd who obviously thought he’d cheated them.
Scott Parker was now coming more and more to the fore with stupendous effort to reach the bye-line, cross or get s shot on goal. He received a lovely ball from Van der Vaart down the right channel. However, Sorensen collected the ball in a situation where Parker ended on the floor, and Spurs wanted something more. A minute later Sorensen made a great diving save from a Parker shot conceding a corner. Spurs were really putting the home side under pressure now. Modric fed Adebayor, whose right footed shot passed just wide.
It was about this stage that Kaboul got the mystery first booking, perhaps for something he said to the fourth official around the half-way line. Parker made another gut-busting run down the right side and hit a cross which reached Bale beyond the far post. Bale cut inside and Modric hit a shot that was deflected for a corner. From the corner, Adebayor had the ball in the net but was adjudged offside. I did see the flag go up before the “goal” was scored. It was just not happening for Spurs who were putting in so much effort and dominating possession and territory without reward.
Then things turned against us, as Kaboul committed a foul outside the right of the Spurs area, and after some hesitation, Mr Foy decided that a yellow card was warranted, which meant Younes had to go and will miss next Sunday’s home game against Sunderland. Stoke nearly scored again when Shotton’s header hit the post after a corner.
Yet another ex-Spur made a late appearance when Wilson Palacios came on, and Giovani also made a late appearance for Van der Vaart. This report does not reflect the full extent of the frustration felt because of Mr. Foy, who seemed to get so much wrong, and it rarely went in favour of Spurs. However, despite that, I still feel that Spurs lost because of their lack of effort in the first half.
We stay in third, but need Man City to take something off Chelsea tomorrow night to keep it that way. I’ll finish with a note of optimism. I don’t think that any Spurs fan has realistically thought of their team as a title contender, but as we left the ground one Stoke “wag” gloated and said ”You’re not going to win the title, are you?”, which actually suggests that other people DO hold us as contenders. We’ll just have to start another run now, won’t we?
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