BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 18TH APRIL, 2016
STOKE CITY 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4(1)
Alli, 67, 82
Referee:- Neil Swarbrick
Assistants:- M. McDonough & M. Perry
Fourth official:- M. Dean
Stoke (4-2-3-1):- Given; Cameron, Shawcross (Capt.), Wollscheid, Muniesa ; Whelan (sub Adam, 76), Imbula; Shaqiri (sub Joselu, 46), Afellay, Arnautovic; Krkic
Subs not used:- Haugaard; Bardsley; Ireland, Diouf; Crouch
Booked:- Imbula (foul on Dier), Adam (foul on Lamela)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Dembele (sub Mason, 87); Lamela (sub Son, 90), Alli (sub Chadli, 84), Eriksen; Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer, Davies
“Leicester City – We’re coming for you!”
This was the resounding chant and message sent out by the full contingent of Spurs fans after Harry Kane firstly gave Spurs a 9th minute lead, and then in the second half during a fifteen minute onslaught by a sparkling, and irresistible Spurs side who ultimately slaughtered a Stoke side, whose heads were well and truly down when Kane made it 3-0 in the 71st minute. Many Stoke fans started to leave the stadium at this point too. Spurs fans lapped up the display, completed by Dele Alli’s second goal. Alli should have a hat-trick too, as he had also hit Shay Given’s left post when the goal beckoned. Christian Eriksen also should have scored in the first half, when he too had Given’s goal at his mercy, but hit the crossbar with his shot.
Mauricio Pochettino was able to field an unchanged side, who were clearly determined from the outset to take advantage of Leicester’s loss of two points yesterday. They dominated early possession, but were probably guilty of seeking to defend their early lead, allowing Stoke to put the defence under undue pressure after a couple of passing and clearance errors. (One by Dembele, the other by Lloris)
It is though fickle to seek to criticise anything about a team which consisted of eleven excellent individual performances with every man working for himself, his team-mates, and of course the Tottenham Hotspur cause. That cause is to relentlessly pursue the Premier League title until such time as it becomes an impossibility.
Spurs kicked off and played away from their fans, who occupied the Marstons Pedigree Stand. It was a while before a chance of note emerged, and that came after 6 minutes, with Kyle Walker strong in the challenge and on the ball, passing inside to Eriksen, who fed it in turn to Lamela. Lamela’s final pass gave Kane the chance, but Given saved in the centre of goal. Three minutes later, Spurs had a lead to celebrate and it was that man Kane who scored, incidentally re-asserting himself as the Premier League’s top scorer above a certain Jamie Vardy, who scored yesterday; got sent off, and who might face an additional one-game ban because of his conduct when sent off by referee Jon Moss. Kane’s goal followed a free kick near the half-way line and Vertonghen’s pass down the left channel. Kane chased it and firstly passed inside to Mousa Dembele, who returned the ball to his left. Kane hit a superb right footed shot across the goal, beating Given inside his left post. It was a shot not too dissimilar to that curler he scored against Arsenal last month.
Dele Alli had a shot blocked after Kane had fed him the ball. There was a gap before any significant action, with Spurs content to control the game and pass backwards if need be. Possession is key! Spurs played some great football from deep in their own half. Rose sent the ball diagonally towards the half-way line. Lamela flicked the ball delightfully to Dele Alli, who spread the play to Walker advancing into the Stoke half. Walker ultimately hit a shot high over the target.
One of those errors by Dembele put us under pressure unnecessarily, but Toby Alderweireld was on hand to head clear the cross which came from the Stoke right. Following Stoke’s corner, Lloris saved a shot by Arnautovic, before the same player headed wide of the target from another opportunity. Stoke did have a number of shots on goal, but most of them were sprayed everywhere but on target.
Spurs put Given under pressure after 31 minutes, and he cleared the ball as far as Danny Rose on the half-way line. Rose sent Kane away, and Harry was fouled blatantly by Whelan. Referee Neil Swarbrick (who had replaced Kevin Friend following social media pressure) was not interested in showing any cards at this stage, and in fact resisted any such urge most of the night. After the free kick the ball broke for the determined Eric Dier, and Alli and Kane were on the attack down the left. Kane crossed but Erik Lamela just could not get the right touch on the ball as it crossed the goal. Kyle Walker hit a cross/shot after that and the ball fell to Dembele who hit a shot that curved away from Given’s top right stanchion.
Vertonghen mis-timed a tackle deep down the left side, but came out with the ball, fed by Dele Alli from a central position, to Kyle Walker, once again sprinting down the wing. Walker’s shot went straight into Given’s arms. After a Spurs free kick in the middle, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli fed the ball to Eriksen in a central position, where he surely had to score, but hit the cross-bar. Harry Kane had a shot wide across the goal just before half-time.
At the interval, Mark Hughes replaced Swiss International Shaqiri with Joselu. Hughes has flair players available in attack, and his intention was clearly to try and catch Spurs on the hop. Indeed Afellay (assisted by Joselu) had an early chance which passed off target. Afellay had another chance which he spurned a minute later, following a free kick from the right. Danny Rose made a great run for Harry Kane’s pass, and got into the Stoke area. Rose was just about the “pull the trigger” but Cameron got a tackle in. Rose went down but there was not appeal from Spurs for a penalty, whilst their fans did make a claim and the Stoke fans (who hate Rose after an incident last year) called him a cheat.
Spurs started to look more than a little slick now. Walker made a break and passed the ball back to Eriksen, who hit a short cross to Dele Alli, whose shot went over the target. Lamela also had a good effort well saved by Given on the right, after good work by Kane and Walker on the right. Dele Alli won the ball in a midfield challenge and Harry Kane took on the chance, running for goal, with Lamela in support, before firing wide.
Imbula got the first yellow card of the night for a foul on Eric Dier. Spurs took a two-goal lead in the 67th minute following a delightful chipped pass by Eriksen to Dele Alli, who beat Given with an equally delightful dink over the keeper’s body. Alli should have made it 3-0 shortly after that when Lamela’s ball was deflected into Alli’s path. Dele took the ball to his right and hit the bottom of the post with his shot.
Spurs soon had a third goal though, and Alli was involved in that as he and Eriksen moved the ball to Lamela on the left. The defence was nowhere and Erik kindly teed up Harry for an easy second goal.
Spurs were never going to look back from this position. Whelan was replaced by Charlie Adam – a man Spurs fans love to hate (not without reason) – and the only worry now was whether we would keep all our men intact. It wasn’t long before Adam did see yellow, for a foul on Lamela. It was a little longer before Spurs scored their fourth goal, and it was all so easy for Spurs. Eriksen made a run with the ball into the left side of the area, chipped a pass to Alli, who did get his second goal with a powerful shot left of Given. There were more renditions of the Dele Alli song! It was at this point that I began to wonder if Stoke were Villa in disguise, because Villa are one of the few teams we have beaten away by four goals in recent years. (Bournemouth were another this season – 5-1)
The last rites included Hugo competently climbing to claim a Stoke free kick; substitute Nacer Chadli taking on a chance taking the ball into the Stoke box, before firing over, and Joselu having an added time effort saved by Lloris.
Spurs have a full week to wait for their next game (another Monday night affair) at home to West Brom. Leicester host Swansea at the week-end, and I have no confidence in Swansea taking anything back from the King Power Stadium. We know we need to win every game – including Chelsea away – and hope for Leicester to slip up in their remaining away games at Old Trafford and on the last day at Stamford Bridge. It could happen, and the dream is on! In the meantime, we have also stretched the gap to 8 points above Man City and Arsenal. One more win will see us clinch a top four place, but of course we want so much more!
COME ON YOU SPURS!
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