A Christian Eriksen brace mounted more despair for a defiant Stoke as Tottenham won 2-1 in a fiery affair at the Bet 365 stadium to record their fourth successive away victory in all competitions.
Eriksen opened the scoring on 52 minutes but Stoke responded with an equaliser five minutes later through Mame Biram Diouf, who capitalised on Hugo Lloris’ failed clearance and slotted the ball into an empty net. The Danish talisman’s free-kick on 63 minutes proved to be enough for the win despite claims from Harry Kane that he got the pivotal touch to beat Jack Butland.
Tottenham are now on the same points as Liverpool but sit below them in fourth place on goal difference with a game in hand. At the other end of the table, Stoke are anchored in 19th place and four points adrift from safety with only five games to play. Both teams have big fixtures next, Spurs host Man City to have their chance to further delay Man City’s title celebrations, while Stoke are away to West Ham with both teams fighting in the relegation battle.
Spurs made four changes from the win over Chelsea seeing a return for Harry Kane while Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama and Serge Aurier replaced Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Erik Lamela. Lambert stuck with the same team that lost to Arsenal but removed Saido Berahino from the squad following issues with his punctuality and attitude.
Stoke had lost the last four fixtures against Spurs by a four-goal margin but both sides were evenly matched throughout the majority the game. Spurs controlled 66.5% possession, however, a hungry Stoke emulated a performance similar of that under Tony Pulis, physical and direct. This was reflected in the 19 fouls given against Stoke with the referee, Graham Scott, seemingly adopting the negative reputation the club was branded in the Pulis era.
Spurs looked most threatening when attacking quickly and more direct stretching the opposition and creating space which led to the opening goal. They found it difficult to break the valiant Stoke defence who committing their bodies to blocks and tackles, preventing Spurs from working Jack Butland. Stoke’s downfall was in the final third only achieving a passing accuracy of 53.6% compared to Spurs’ 74.5% and numerous set pieces wasted by Shaqiri’s disappointing deliveries. Despite Stoke and Tottenham having 10 and 15 shots respectively, both keepers had a quiet afternoon.
The first half was scarce on clear cut chances with both sides sharing one opportunity each. The first chance came on the 12th minute for an unmarked Diouf. Running onto a low driven cross from Pieters and six yards out, the Striker lacked composure sliding double footed into the ball sending it way over the bar and resulting him lying on the floor, where he spends most of his time on the pitch. At the midpoint of the first half, Eriksen fizzed a ball to Alli on the halfway line who effortless touched and flicked the ball through for Heung-Min Son for a one-on-one but was denied by brilliant save from Butland. Both sides were ineffective with their corners and free-kicks in the first half and Diouf summed up the lack of quality in the final third just after the break by scuffing a shot into the ground from the edge of the box, with Lloris able to throw his cap on it.
Spurs broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half when Pieters committed himself up the left wing and failed to close down Moussa Dembele who found Dele Alli in space midway in the Stoke half. Dele quickly moved the ball into the box, 2-on-2, but rather than squaring it to Kane he delayed on the edge of the six yard box and pulled the ball back to Eriksen who calmly placed the ball first time into the far corner giving Butland no chance.
Shortly after another one-on-one presented itself to Son after Kane played a great ball through but again was denied by Butland with appeals for a penalty from the Spurs players.Embed from Getty Images
The equaliser came five minutes later when Lloris, on his 200th Premier League appearance, beat Diouf to the ball outside the box after Shaqiri played a slightly over hit defence splitting pass. His clearance was bravely closed down by Diouf who took a big hit to the face but remained strong to slot the ball into an empty net.
Tottenham restored their lead after a Danny Rose foul on Glen Johnson was waved away leading to Bauer giving away a needless free kick out by the touchline trying to recover the ball. While the referee seemed to lecture Ryan Shawcross, Spurs got around ten yards forward and inward from where the foul was committed. However, Eriksen’s delivery was whipped in and without intervention despite Kane protesting he got a touch on the ball, it continued into the far corner.
As the game progressed the atmosphere got more intense as both teams were putting in some heavy challenges on each other with Danny Rose being the pantomime villain to the Stoke fans. Stoke bought on Tyrese Campbell (69’), Peter Crouch (79’) and Kurt Zouma (95’) for Ramadan Sobhi, Glen Johnson and Moritz Bauer to be more direct and play the long ball. Whereas Tottenham’s substitutions were seemingly to replace the tired legs of Heung Min Son, Victor Wanyama and Dele Alli for Erik Lamela (67’), Eric Dier (82’) and Moussa Sissoko (90’).Embed from Getty Images
The game opened up and both sides had opportunities but were mostly off target or didn’t trouble the keepers. Campbell nearly scored with his first touch after Lloris’ punch fell short, but he floated his header just wide. Shaqiri came close to grabbing a second equaliser after his exceptional free-kick hit the bar 10 minutes before the end. Erik Lamela bought new life to Spurs going forward and came close with a curling effort from outside the box just on the wrong side of the post.
Stoke had an excellent opportunity when Badou Ndyiae intercepted a pass in the middle of the pitch and released Diouf down the left with four Stoke players steaming towards the Spurs goal and a lonely Jan Vertonghen. Most Stoke fans would have had wanted any other player on the ball and it showed when Diouf entered the box failed to square it to one of the three open Stoke players and found Vertonghen instead.
Stoke continued to keep the pressure on launching the ball forward but Spurs would counter quickly posing threats to the home sides defence. However, the Potters couldn’t avoid their fourth straight defeat and their Premier League status is rapidly disappearing. Spurs have put themselves in a position where they can overtake Liverpool with their game in hand if the can match or better Liverpool result next week.Embed from Getty Images
Pochettino’s men were calm and comfortable throughout the 90 minutes with moments of quick and intricate play done so effortlessly proving why they deserve a Champions League spot.
Stoke can take solace in the fact they have played well and been unlucky to some extent in two tough fixtures but even so, there are still concerns with the lack of goals and chance creation which needs to be addressed if they are to survive.
Both teams have important games next week with Tottenham having the chance to add to Man City’s woes and proving they can go toe to toe with the soon to be champions. Stoke have a six pointer at West Ham and nothing less than a win will be sufficient to keep their Premier League status alive.
Written by Andy Ridgway.
Project Engineer at Rolls Royce. Unfortunately, born a Stoke City fan but wouldn’t have it any other way.