Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City: Final score 3-0, and that was much improved

Paul Gilham

That was extremely encouraging after the blahness that was the Boxing Day match.

Tottenham Hotspur fans were mostly feeling a bit skeptical about the Tim Sherwood era after Thursday's lackluster performance, but everything went according to plan on Sunday, with Spurs playing some of their best football of the season. Stoke City never looked involved in the game whatsoever as the hosts ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at White Hart Lane.

However, Spurs did fail to take advantage of some great chances early and got a couple of breaks on the other end. Zeki Fryers could have been booked for a challenge on Jon Walters on the edge of the penalty area early on, but referee Kevin Friend didn't spot it. Around the 15-minute mark, Tottenham failed to capitalize on a brilliant spell, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen missing from point blank range. A minute later, Paulinho set up Roberto Soldado with a brilliant heel flick, but Spurs' £26m man couldn't finish.

Spurs got their big break in the 36th minute, when Ryan Shawcross put his hands up to block a shot by Adebayor, for which Friend gave a penalty. Soldado converted, and with Spurs up a goal, Stoke had very few avenues to create an attack.

Friend -- who probably should have booked both Fryers and Shawcross by this point -- continued to turn in a shocking performance as the half drew to a close. He missed a punch thrown by Steven Nzonzi at Adebayor and a trip by Michael Dawson on Oussama Assaidi in the box.

Tottenham stayed well on top early in the second half, but it took a bit of magic for them to score and take full control of the match. Mousa Dembele took the pressure off in the 64th minute, beating two men with a pretty dribbling move before placing a shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards. Five minutes later, Aaron Lennon secured the result with a brilliant volleyed goal from 12 yards.

Stoke probably should have gone into desperation mode at some point, but never threatened. They finished the game with just two shot attempts.

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