Tottenham put in an epically Spursy performance in their White Hart Lane opener as they limped to a 2-2 draw with Stoke City on Saturday. Despite leading 2-0 in the 77th minute, Spurs shipped two goals late and could only come away with a point from all their good work.
Most of the chances came from Spurs in the first half. Christian Eriksen had the first big chance of the match in the seventh minute when he found himself free in the box, but his low shot was saved by Stoke keeper Jack Butland. Just a minute later, Eric Dier was hauled down just outside the box by Glen Whelan. Eriksen's resulting free kick was nicely parried away but Butland again.
Spurs opened the scoring in the 19th minute off of a corner kick. Eriksen lofted the ball into a congested box, but it found Eric Dier's head who blasted it bast Butland to put Spurs up 1-0.
Stoke was held largely in check but did have a few chances. Early on, Hugo had to make a low save to prevent a goal by Mame Biram Diouf after first giving the ball away on a poor outlet pass. Ryan Mason blocked the ensuing rebound attempt, and was kicked in the knee in the process (he was fine). Later, Douf got another shot off inside the box, but his driving header was directed straight at Lloris, who smothered it easily.
Spurs had other opportunities in the half as well. Harry Kane nearly doubled Spurs' lead in the 31st minute but his blasted shot was ruled offside. Six minutes later Christian Eriksen put in a gorgeous pass to Nacer Chadli who was streaking into Stoke's box, but he wasn't able to control it well and the chance went begging.
The match devolved into more of a possession match late as both teams seemed to take their feet off the gas pedal, but it picked up right before halftime. Ryan Mason had a cheeky attempt on goal in the 45th minute, but his reaction touch couldn't carry past Butland.
It was Chadli who doubled Spurs' lead just before halftime: Harry Kane, who had dropped deep, put a beautiful ball to a driving Ben Davies. Davies' lofted cross was met by a wide-open Chadli, who one-touched it into the net. The half ended 2-0.
No changes for either team at halftime.
Sometimes writing about football is hard. It's especially hard when your (legal) streaming service goes offline midway through the second half and you're stuck with few options. Great job, NBC. I didn't see as much of the second half as I wanted, but here's what I gleaned from what I did see as well as the observations of my fellow writers.
As good as Tottenham was in the first half, they were equally poor in the second. It started out well enough: Nacer Chadli almost got Harry Kane his first goal of the season in the 52nd minute, but Kane's volley in the box was saved brilliantly by Butland, who despite letting in two goals had an excellent day.
Hugo came up big again in the second half. A Stoke cross came into Diouf, who headed the ball straight at Hugo from four yards out, but Hugo was able to parry it away. It was a fine save. It was also about the last great thing Spurs did the rest of the game.
Midway through the half, Stoke City subbed on Stephen Ireland and Joselu for Marco van Ginkel and Jonathan Walters. A little later, Harry Kane was inexplicably subbed off for Erik Lamela and Nabil Bentaleb came on for Ryan Mason. With Kane out, Spurs stopped pressing in midfield, and from that point on, Stoke City dominated the match.
It started with a stupid penalty: Toby Alderweireld hauled down Joselu in the corner of the box, and Marko Arnautovic converted from the spot to halve Spurs' lead. From then on, Spurs were on their back foot, and Stoke took advantage. Five minutes later, Ireland put in a great ball to Diouf, who dinked it past Hugo to even the scoreline.
Stoke nearly won it late as Ireland again found himself open at the back post, but his ball went just wide right. A minute later, Kyle Walker got into a tussle on a yellow card and was very close to being sent off, but the official was able to cool down tempers and play continued.
Spurs pushed forward in injury time but weren't able to break down a bunkered Stoke defense, and the match ended in a super frustrating draw.
- What a super frustrating, dumb, Spursy match. I literally deleted all my observations and notes from the first half after watching (most of) the second half. As good as Spurs were in the opening period, and they were very, very good at points, they were equally terrible in the last 20 minutes of the match.
- Erik Lamela without question had his worst performance in a Tottenham shirt. He was abject in midfield after coming in from Harry Kane. I like the guy, but he did not do himself any favors with his performance in this match.
- Kane's substitution was inexplicable. I get that when your'e 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go it might be the time to experiment with the Nacer-Chadli-As-Striker formation, but it backfired severely. Spurs instantly missed Kane's ability to drop deep and press, and Chadli was simply ineffective as his sub up top. Combined with Lamela's horror-show, it was a recipe for disaster. Just pay the f**king money and sign Charlie Austin, please. [Edit: I missed the minutes leading up to the substitution, and it appears Kane had been cramping up. That makes the sub less inexplicable, but no less disastrous]
- Just when Ryan Mason makes you want to praise him he does something completely dumb. It's one reason he's so infuriating as a player: his one-touch shot attempt in the first half? Good. His defensive tracking for large portions of this match? Good. His forward runs? Very good. His scuffed shot attempt in the 2nd? Not good. Nor were the midfield turnovers. I want to say nice things about you, Ryan. You're getting there. Help me... help you.
- We got manhandled by Stephen Ireland, everyone. STEPHEN. IRELAND. UGH.
- My anger at the draw overshadows how good Spurs looked in the first half. Spurs looked good in possession, were controlling the ball very well, looked dangerous, and solid at the back. It was every bit the Spurs side that we all hoped this team would be. I wish we could have put it together for an entire match.
- Eric Dier did really well again today. I'm starting to think that maybe he is the CM signing we've been looking for. That doesn't mean I don't want to sign another CM – I definitely do – but if he's the worst case scenario, it's not that bad.
- Mousa Dembele is an underrated tank. He may not score much, but man, he can play. I'd like to see him continue to start matches, because he adds a dimension to Spurs' attack that nobody else is providing right now. He maybe should've scored for Spurs late, if not for Butland, who had an excellent match.
- Nacer Chadli was again as Nacer Chadli-ish as he could possibly be. He bottled one attempt, looked lost at times, had some terrible passes (more like "Passer Badly," amirite), but still found himself in dangerous positions and fired in a spectacular volleyed goal. He's the most awesomely frustrating goal-scoring Spurs player Tottenham has had in years. I
love hate love... oh, I don't even know.
- I'm sure I missed stuff or am glossing over aspects of this match, and for that I'm sorry. I plan to watch the replay to see what I missed, since not watching about 10 minutes of the half makes it hard to objectively analyze them. So sorry, y'all. Add your comments below.