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Spurs v Stoke City, 26.02.17

(1.30 pm)

Kane, 14, 32, 37
Dele Alli, 45+1

Attendance:- 31,864

Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: E Smart, A Halliday
Fourth official: P Tierney

Spurs (3-4-2-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Dier, Alderweireld (sub Wimmer, 49), Vertonghen (sub Winks, 66); Walker, Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Eriksen, Dele Alli; Kane (sub Son, 86)

Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier; Sissoko; Janssen

Booked:- Wimmer (foul on Arnautovic), Wanyama (foul on Allen)

Stoke (4-2-3-1):- Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross (Capt.), Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan (sub Cameron, 82), Adam (sub Afellay, 60); Sobhi, Allen, Arnautovic; Crouch (sub Berahino, 60)

Subs not used:- Given; Muniesa, Diouf, Imbula

Booked:- Whelan (foul on Vertonghen), Adam (foul on Dele Alli), Arnautovic (foul on Dele Alli)

Never mind “Delilah”! Stoke are our “Aunt Sallies”! *
Aunt Sally – A target for abuse, criticism, or blame (Chambers English Dictionary – Definition 3). Also a fairground or pub game where sticks or balls are thrown into the mouth of a wooden figure

Spurs, led by hat-trick hero Harry Kane, took visiting Stoke City by storm today, and it was all done in the first half. For the third consecutive meeting of these two teams, Spurs have won 4-0. Never mind “Delilah”! Stoke have become our “Aunt Sallies”! We went through a spell before Aston Villa were relegated of beating them by big margins regularly. Stoke are not threatened by relegation, but their trip to Dubai for some warm weather training during their two-week break did them no good at all here. Spurs, on the other hand have played 4 games while Stoke were resting, but they looked sharper than ever.

Harry Kane has scored his second hat-trick in a week, after one at Fulham last Sunday, and his third already this year! These three goals also put him on 66 Premier League goals already, only 34 behind Peter Crouch who was up front for Stoke today. Harry has drawn level top scorer with Lukaku and Sanchez. His is an incredible record.

Mauricio Pochettino fielded an unchanged side from Thursday’s game at Wembley, and no doubt sent his men out with the mission of proving their worth to themselves; their fans, and the other teams in the top six. The team, to a man, set out on their task with real gusto; urgency, and plenty of skill. Stoke kicked off, and played towards the North Stand. Within three minutes, Toby Alderweireld was ploughing forward, getting well into Stoke’s half, pushing the ball out to Kyle Walker, showing no decrease in energy and determination despite putting in such a full shift on Thursday night. Walker’s cross was dangerous, but went too deep for Harry Kane, leading to a Stoke throw. A minute later Walker crossed again, and Harry Kane seemed to get a push in the back from Martins Indi, who did not look at all comfortable all day. Similarly, Stoke’s captain, Ryan Shawcross, struggled against the pace of just about any Spurs man who took him on.

Christian Eriksen beat Shawcross and got into the box on Stoke’s right side. His cross passed dangerously across the 6-yard area, but found no-one to convert the ball. More good pressure from Spurs ended with Walker passing inside to Kane who under close marking found Eriksen, who could not get a shot on goal.

Former Liverpool man Joe Allen, who plays a more attacking role for Stoke than he did at Anfield, was probably Stoke’s biggest threat, such as it was, and he hit a scuffed shot from the left which went low into the side netting, never worrying Hugo Lloris.

Spurs responded with their first goal, and perhaps it was only a surprise that it took until the 14th minute to arrive. Skilful close play at the edge of the area by Dele and Eriksen led to Harry Kane firing home with his right foot across goalkeeper Grant’s right hand.

Both Stoke’s defensive midfielders Glenn Whelan and hate-figure Charlie Adam got early yellow cards, which may have limited their power to hamper Spurs to the degree they desired. Whelan’s card was for a foul on the advancing Jan Vertonghen. Adam’s came a little later against Dele Alli, who was a prime target for Stoke. Alderweireld picked up a ball in his own half, and sent it to Kyle Walker. Kyle passed inside to Harry Kane who switched the play to Ben Davies on the left. Davies passed to Dele, who returned it to Walker, who tried his luck with a right foot shot when both his feet were off the ground. The ball went wide, but the move had flowed, as Spurs purred. Kyle’s attempt came as he was on the run, and on the stretch, he acted instinctively.

Stoke had another good attempt on goal when Pieters crossed from the left and Crouch had a shot from close in which Hugo instinctively saved and the ball rebounded off a Stoke (Sky blue) shirt and out for a goal-kick. Crouch had his head in his hands. After Adam’s booking and a corner by Eriksen, the ball was cleared only as far as Jan Vertonghen, whose shot beat Grant, but hit the top of the bar. Eriksen had another attempt which was blocked, and Harry Kane hit a right footed shot outside the far post. It was so hard to believe we were still only one up! After great play by Victor Wanyama in which he carried the ball out of defence, skilfully beating two opponents, Spurs won a free kick about 25 yards out. Eriksen tapped it to Kyle Walker, whose powerful shot was tipped over by Grant.

That much-deserved second goal came from the resultant corner, taken by Eriksen, falling to Kane at the edge of the area. Harry hit a powerful left footed shot which beat Grant all ends up. Kane’s hat-trick goal came five minutes later after Dele had been fouled again by Adam. Again, Eriksen touched the ball short, this time to Harry, whose shot was on target, but was deflected by a defender past Grant’s left hand. The match ball was reserved for the Spurs number 10!

Stoke’s Arnautovic got his side’s third booking of the first half for a foul on Harry, who had the last laugh in added time, as he got away down the right channel and crossed unselfishly for Dele Alli waiting at the back post to make it 4-0!

Inevitably, the tempo fell in the second half, and within minutes Toby Alderweireld went down in the middle but walked off and was replaced by Kevin Wimmer, who settled into Alderweireld’s spot in the middle of the back three. Dele Alli tried an overhead shot on goal when receiving from the right, but he could not get power on the shot, which passed wide. Stoke’s fans, knowing they had no chance in the game entertained themselves with chants, including one which derided Spurs’ Champions League efforts. Good taste prevents me from printing the Spurs response, but it was sung to the tune of “Hey Jude”.

Dele chased a long ball down the left flank and beat Shawcross for pace, winning a free kick, which Dele took short. Eriksen crossed to the back post, but Harry Kane could not quite make contact. There was an argument of course for Kane to be replaced early by Vincent Janssen, desperate for a goal from free play, and also for some decent game time. Janssen remained un-used throughout the game.

Stoke managed a brief period of pressure upon Spurs, winning a free kick and a couple of corners. Davies struggled to clear his lines after one of the corner kicks and Charlie Adam had a pop at goal, which was saved then cleared. Adam was then replaced by Afellay, whilst Peter Crouch went off to a massive Spurs ovation, as he was replaced by former Spurs target Berahino, who did a lot of running, but produced little in the way of results.

Dier had an attempt on the Stoke goal from close range after an Eriksen free kick, but he had been flagged offside in any case. Eriksen trapped and controlled a long ball well, before taking it to his right but hitting the shot wide. Wanyama had a chance from another Eriksen kick, but this was cleared. Now Jan Vertonghen was replaced by Harry Winks, as Spurs reverted to a back four. That didn’t stop Kyle Walker bombing forward to be fed by Winks on several occasions!

Kevin Wimmer was yellow carded for a foul on Arnautovic, after being put in a difficult position by Davies’ over-hit ball. Davies redeemed himself with a clearance just in front of goal from Arnautovic, after a dangerous ball by Joe Allen. One pleasing trend during the latter stages of the game was to see Hugo Lloris more inclined to hit the ball long(ish) towards the half-way line. Dembele controlled and took on one such ball, passing inside to Eriksen, before Dele’s ball to Winks, whose shot was deflected over the bar. Winks was involved in another move after Eriksen passed to Kane, towards the right. Kane exchanged passes with Winks, before hitting a shot which goalkeeper Grant saved well, diving to his right, conceding a corner.

Winks sent Walker away, and Kyle tried his luck going into the box, before hitting a shot over the target. Wimmer and Dele offered a supply line to Eriksen, who also missed the target. Dele tried a low shot from the left hand side of goal, but this was held by the keeper. Another Winks-Walker move led to a corner. Harry Kane was replaced late in the game by Son, and of course received a great and deserved standing ovation. The only further chance of note came from Dele Alli, who forced his way through to take a shot from a sharp angle, which passed right across the goalmouth.

I had predicted 2-0. We got four, and it could (should?) have been more. With Arsenal and Man City taking an enforced week-end off, and Manchester United busy winning the EFL Cup at Wembley, Spurs have regained second place, and made a firm statement of their intent to at least try and catch Chelsea, who are 10 points clear. With their next two league games at home, and three of their opponents at the top end of the table playing catch-up, there is no reason why Spurs should not hold onto second place a for a few weeks yet!

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