The last three times Spurs have faced Stoke City, they have won 4-0. It wasn’t the same scoreline, but it was another dominant win for Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs scored four second half goals after a first half Stoke own goal, and Tottenham romped to a crisis-averting 5-1 win at Wembley Stadium.
With Davinson Sanchez out for the next three matches, Mauricio Pochettino adjusted his lineup to a modified 4-2-3-1. Eric Dier moved back to the back line beside Jan Vertonghen, with a midfield pivot of Harry Winks and Mousa Dembele. The forward attacking line featured Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, and Son Heung-Min behind Harry Kane. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies were the fullbacks. Erik Lamela started the match on the bench.
As expected, Stoke set up with a back three that operated more like a back five as they attempted to bunker and hit back through Shaqiri on the counter-attack. Shaqiri had the first dangerous run of the match, pushing forward and stretching Spurs’ defense on a run that was eventually ruled offside.
But it was Spurs who had the first chance of the game. Son Heung-Min, who had an excellent half, fired a long shot from outside of the box in the 12th minute that was unfortunately straight at Stoke keeper Jack Butland.
Spurs have been criticized for their past few games for conceding early goals, but this time they were the benefit of some luck. In the 22nd minute, Ryan Shawcross headed in a Son cross past his own keeper, and the own-goal put Spurs up 1-0.
After the goal, Stoke weren’t able to park the bus and Spurs took advantage, suddenly playing with more intensity, keeping the ball longer, and wearing down the Potters’ defense. Son had another great opportunity on a breakaway counter, but opted to have a go at goal and not to attempt a pass to a teammate. His shot was low and soft and Butland collected easily.
Spurs found it difficult to find Harry Kane for most of the first half, but in the 38th minute Kane got through on goal in Stoke’s box. Usually automatic from there, Kane slipped his shot just wide, instead.
The end of the half was a little frantic as Spurs kept pushing forward for a second goal before halftime. Spurs had the bulk of the ball and some decent half-chances but couldn’t get it in the net. The first half ended 1-0, but with Spurs easily the better side.
It took a while for the goals to start flowing for Spurs in the second half, but once they did, they came fast and furious. Tottenham started the half on the front foot and never looked like losing as they carved Stoke open again and again, both in possession and on the counter attack.
Son Heung-Min opened Spurs’ scoring in the 53rd minute with a wonderful goal after he was sprung from a through ball. Sonny got behind Stoke defender Kurt Zouma and poked the ball home. It was no less than he deserved, as Son had a magnificent match for Spurs.
Just a minute later, Harry Kane very nearly got his first goal after Jack Butland spilled a ball, but somehow Butland was able to gather it and spare his blushes. Kane got his revenge in the 55th minute: Ben Davies and Christian Eriksen had a 1-2 pass, which allowed Davies to float a cross to the back post. Kane was open, and put a header past Butland to put Spurs up 3.
The third goal demoralized Stoke City, and as they pushed forward to try and claw a goal back, Spurs started carving them open time and time again.
Kane got his brace in the 64th minute with a clinical finish. Christian Eriksen’s cross found Son, who teed it up for Harry to side-foot home.
Spurs made their first substitution in the 68th minute as Dele Alli made way for Erik Lamela. Three minutes after coming on, Lamela very nearly got his first goal since returning from injury, sliding in for a close-range effort but missing by inches.
Christian Eriksen got the fifth for Spurs on a counter-attack. Spurs found themselves on a 5-3 break and ran straight at a shell-shocked Stoke defense. Sonny put another nice ball to the feet of Eriksen who slotted it home, cool as you like.
Stoke eventually got a consolation goal in the 81st minute after a mistake from Hugo Lloris -- Hugo rushed out on a corner kick to try and punch a ball away, but missed, allowing Ryan Shawcross to head the ball into the net. Hugo will be upset to miss out on the clean sheet, but in truth he didn’t have much to do.
It was the kind of incredibly dominant half where any description doesn’t quite do it justice. Spurs could’ve scored another 3-4 goals -- Kane was offside on a few chances, Jan Vertonghen whiffed on a volley -- but the important thing was that Spurs got the three points and banished the league malaise that had followed them since November.
The final score was 5-1.
- This is the kind of match report where I know I missed a lot of good chances in the write-up, but dammit, they came so fast I just couldn’t keep up. What a half. Put your favorite moment in the comments.
- So, this is just an observation, but Spurs play better when they don’t concede a stupid early goal.
- Great cross from Son to Shawcross’ head for the opening goal. Just like they drew it up.
- I don’t have a problem with Son shooting on that breakaway. Stoke did a good job eliminating easy passing lanes. Sonny might’ve passed it earlier on the play, but he had an open lane to goal, with only Trippier open behind him when he shot. The shot could’ve been better, but I don’t mind him shooting in that situation.
- More on Son — this was one of the best performances I’ve seen from him in a Spurs shirt. He was everywhere. An outstanding performance from the Korean. Dare we bench Dele for him when everyone’s healthy?
- Christian Eriksen looked a lot more like his old self. I think that rest helped him.
- Harry Winks had a bit of a shocker in the first half, but grew into the game once Stoke stopped bunkering.
- The universe is clearly conspiring to keep Harry Kane from scoring a league hat trick. Still, his brace got him his 11th and 12th goal of the season, which ties him with Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah at the top of the scorer’s table.
- Shout out to Jack Butland who low-key had a very good game for Stoke, despite conceding five goals. He had some outstanding stops, and Spurs might have scored nine today.
- Thanks to Chelsea losing, Spurs are now three points out of third place. They’re currently in fifth, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference (though the Gunners have a game in hand). If they can keep up the momentum into the midweek match and beyond, they could set themselves up for another nice December run like last season.
- Think Sonny is going to have to comfort Wimmer in the parking lot after the match?