BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 22ND DECEMBER, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) STOKE CITY 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. L. Mason
Assistants:- Mr. M. Mullarkey & Mr. P. Bankes
Fourth official:- Mr. S. Attwell
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Lennon (sub Sigurdsson, 78), Dembele (sub Parker, 85), Sandro, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor
Subs not used:- Friedel; Gallas, Naughton; Livermore, Townsend
Booked:- Sandro (unsporting behaviour), Vertonghen (unsporting behaviour - foul on Whelan)
Stoke (4-2-3-1):- Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross (Capt.), Huth, Wilkinson; Whelan, N'Zonzi; Shotton (sub Whitehead, 64), Walters, Etherington (sub Crouch, 69); Jones (sub Jerome, 66)
Subs not used:- Sorensen; Upson; Palacios, Kightly
Booked:- Wilkinson (foul on Lennon), Whitehead (foul on Vertonghen), Cameron (foul on Lennon), N'Zonzi (foul on Sandro), Walters (dissent)
A Christmas game of frustration
Once upon a time, it was a simple board game called Ludo. For quite a few years now, that has been converted to a popper game simply called "Frustration", and that is what Spurs, and more importantly, the paying fans had to endure today.
Stoke City remain unbeaten in 8 Premier League games now, holding a satisfactory position five points behind Spurs, who missed the chance to go third, and slipped to fifth, behind Arsenal and Everton, both of whom won on away turf today. With Chelsea playing tomorrow, Spurs are likely to slip another place, but it all remains very tight in the challenge for European places in the Premier League, as the half-way point approaches.
Thanks to some early mistakes by Spurs, the visitors actually had the better of the first exchanges, with Kenwyne Jones having two chances, one of which had to be cleared in front of the goal-line by Sandro, who had taken a very early booking from referee Lee Mason, who was no friend of Spurs, or their fans in the first half. Vertonghen also saw yellow before the first half was more than 27 minutes old. It was a little hard to tell whether he got the booking for a foul on Whelan, or dissent, but two of Spurs' key defensive players had been put under added pressure too early in the game. Yet at that stage, the referee did not see fit to punish the ever-uncompromising Stoke players.
After those two chances, Stoke rarely threatened the Spurs goal, but Spurs failed to break down the 10-man defence that persistently assembled no more than 25 yards from their goal-line. Goalkeeper Begovic did not have to make a save of note until added time.
There was no sign of Clint Dempsey in the 18-man squad, and Andre Villas-Boas may be switching his resources over the forthcoming Christmas period. Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker returned to the central defence, and Gareth Bale made a welcome return.
Stoke were effective in getting behind the ball, marking the Spurs players tightly, and quite frankly, when they did break into the Spurs half, they moved quicker, and found space more efficiently.
Jones got his first chance with less than a minute on the clock, as the ball was poorly defended and fell to the lone striker's feet in space in the middle. Jones clearly could not believe his luck, and fluffed his attempt on goal. Curiously, Sandro's booking was issued at a time when Spurs had been awarded a free kick. Perhaps it was over an earlier incident.
After 14 minutes, Bale and Adebayor worked an exchange of passes on the left, before Bale sent over a dangerous cross that was cleared away from Defoe. Stoke made a break and got the ball to that man Kenwyne Jones, whose shot beat Lloris, but was hooked clear a yard or two in front of the goal-line by the ever heroic Sandro.
Vertonghen found himself doing a lot of the work down the left, and one decent cross passed across the goal-mouth, before a cross/shot passed wide of the far post. He had another pot shot go wide after receiving his booking.
Bale hit a decent lofted cross from the inside left position, and Adebayor met it with a header at the back post, which went over the goal. Sandro hit a good threaded pass down the middle to Adebayor, who fed Defoe, moving towards the left of the box, and hitting a left foot shot well wide.
With half time approaching, Dembele jigged left and right on a diagonal path from right to left, before hitting a left foot shot hat curved over the corner of the goal. Adebayor passed inside from the right to Dembele, who passed to Defoe, whose shot was just wide.
After the break, Spurs showed more urgency and finally a Stoke player got a card, when left back Wilkinson brought an unfair halt to Lennon's charge. Adebayor and Bale threatened from the right and middle, before eventually Defoe hit a shot wide.
Bale spent too long for my liking on the right wing, but from there he did start an attack, with a ball to Adebayor, then Lennon on the left, whose cross was actually headed over by Bale, when he should have hit the target.
A typical Dawson ball reached Lennon on the left, who passed inside to Defoe, whose shot was deflected for a Spurs corner.
Tony Pulis made all three of his substitutions in fairly quick succession, one of which was Peter Crouch for Etherington. Both players had received good receptions, when announced, as did unused substitute Wilson Palacios.
With 20 minutes to go, Adebayor received a good ball that hd been lifted diagonally over the defence from left to right, but his shot was blocked, resulting in a corner.
The bookings started to come thick and fast now for Stoke, and Dean Whitehead saw yellow within 10 minutes of entering the contest. Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced Lennon, and after he had taken a corner on the left, a Dembele shot from some 25 yards was deflected, then looped into Begovic's hands.
A Walker ball reached the feet of Defoe, and there was so nearly a moment of magic by the striker, but Stoke frustrated again with good defensive work. A good ball by Vertonghen down the left was picked up by Sigurdsson, whose cross failed.
Scott Parker got more minutes under his belt, replacing Dembele. A free kick by Bale was deflected for a corner, which, when taken, went straight to the hands of the goalkeeper. Bale had a chance after an Adebayor header, but failed to get sufficient strength in his shot.
Spurs' best chance came as we started a scheduled four minutes of added time, when a glancing header by Sigurdsson from Sandro's cross was well saved by Begovic.
This was our first domestic 0-0 of the season, and we have been beaten just once in the last eight games, with two successive clean sheets.
Spurs need to find more momentum at times, and attack more swiftly to combat the well organised teams that are happy to get men behind the ball at White Hart Lane.
Still, you know, things could be a lot worse. Some people choose to watch Stoke every week!
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