Tottenham Hotspur's run of 11 games without defeat is over. Stoke City have taken all three points at the Britannia Stadium, winning 2-1. That score doesn't even come close to telling the story of the game, a wild encounter with huge momentum swings and some abysmal officiating.
Chris Foy will be the story of this match, and for good reason. While he was not the reason that Tottenham did not win the game - Spurs were poor for long stretches of the match - he made a number of incorrect decisions and had an inarguable negative effect on the proceedings. His mistakes, even on small decisions in the first half, were numerous. His biggest poor decisions came late in the match. If there's any justice in English football, he will be a fourth official in the lower divisions next week.
Stoke got forward quickly and with purpose in the first minute, a sign of things to come. Off of a long throw by Ryan Shotton, Matthew Etherington took a rip on a volley after the ball deflected out to the edge of the area. Brad Friedel made a save, but failed to hang onto the ball. Jonathan Walters' follow-up shot went into the side netting, but that early chance was an indicator of what the next 25 minutes would be like.
After a long spell of pressure by Stoke, Etherington finally got a deserved goal for the Potters in the 13th minute. On a deflected cross into the box, Walters won a header and knocked down the ball. Peter Crouch took a good first touch and muscled the ball back across the face of goal. Etherington was unmarked and smashed it in from six yards, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Stoke would continue to look like the aggressors afterwards, putting Tottenham under pressure and forcing them to play a physical and direct game. It was not until around the 25th minute that Spurs began to slow down play and pass the ball to feet. from that point until the end of the half, they looked like the superior side, though their only great opportunity was a 25-yard shot from Luka Modric that was saved by Thomas Sorensen in the 31st minute.
However, those 20 or so minutes of good work would ultimately be for nothing. Stoke grabbed a second against the run of play, and unsurprisingly, it came on a long throw. That's not to say it wasn't deserved; Tottenham's marking on the throw was terrible. On Shotton's throw, Walters got to the ball with a great flick, finding Etherington. Scott Parker fell asleep at the switch, letting Etherington get by him to tap the ball into the back of the net. It was the crappy icing on the rubbish cake that was Parker's first half performance. Parker has been arguably Spurs' best player this season, but his first half performance was almost unfathomably poor.
At halftime, Harry Redknapp made a dramatic change. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who defended poorly, and Aaron Lennon, whose first touch was abysmal, both came out of the game. Entering were Sebastien Bassong and Jermain Defoe, surprisingly shifting the team into a 3-4-1-2 formation.
In the 62nd minute, Spurs were given their way back into the game. On a short corner kick, Luka Modric was kicked by Glenn Whelan in the box. Modric certainly embellished the contact, but there was no question that Whelan made contact. Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up and hit a great penalty, bringing back one goal for Spurs.
Chris Foy's calls for the entire game, benefiting and costing both sides, were questionable at best and poor at worst. That was, from the first until the 75th minute. From the 75th minute on, his officiating was inexcusably poor and it unfairly benefited Stoke City.
This is not to say that Foy is crooked or that Stoke did not deserve to get a decent result out of this match. For the first 25 minutes, Stoke were the far superior side. From then until around the 60th minute, the play was somewhat even, only slightly benefiting Spurs. They deserved both of their goals and they defended very well for the first 60 minutes of the game. I dislike Stoke's style of play, but they executed their gameplan well for 2/3 of the game and I do not begrudge them for getting a result, even if I think that Chris Foy significantly altered the outcome of the game.
The biggest error, or errors, that Foy's crew committed came in the 75th minute. In a matter of ten seconds, they missed two obvious calls and cost Tottenham Hotspur a goal. First, Younes Kaboul had a shot blocked off the line by a blatant Ryan Shawcross elbow. A penalty kick should have been given and Ryan Shawcross should have seen a straight red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Not ten seconds later, Rafael van der Vaart played a through ball to Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored. The goal was disallowed for offside, even though Marc Wilson was keeping Adebayor onside by at least two yards.
Seven minutes later, Younes Kaboul was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Jonathan Walters. By no stretch of the imagination was Kaboul's foul dangerous, nor had he been fouling persistently. His first yellow card was picked up for dissent, as Kaboul lost his cool with one of Foy's many abysmal decisions. It was, quite simply, a ridiculous sending off.
Tottenham did not alter their shape at all after the sending off, playing a 2-4-1-2 formation. This unsurprisingly resulted in a wide-open game with players from both sides spread all over the pitch, out of position for the remainder of the match. The rest of the match was a seriously up and down affair, but neither side could produce a goal and it ended 2-1 to Stoke after five minutes of stoppage time.
I'll have more thoughts later, but in summary: Our first half performance was inexcusable. Our second half performance was good enough to get a point. We were robbed of that point by Chris Foy, who is incompetent.