Tottenham Hotspur continued their push for a third straight season of Champions League football on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Stoke City in the West Midlands. The match was far from pretty and was full of fouls and stoppages in play, but ultimately Spurs picked up three points to go one step closer to locking up Top Four.
The first twenty minutes were fairly uneventful with both teams trading possession and mustering a couple of half-chances that resulted in nothing. The chippiness of the match, as usually is the case with Stoke, rose with every foul and dangerous play. Somehow there were no bookings in all of this.
Spurs first big chance came on a lovely volley pass by Dele to free up Heung Min Son on a breakaway. The Korean International managed to pull ahead of Stoke’s statue-like defenders but his shot was low and right into the midriff of keeper Jack Butland.
Spurs enjoyed themselves the next ten minutes, doing skill moves that moved the ball effectively (be sure to check out Jan Vertonghen turning Diouf into a somersault machine after the match) while having some fun. Tottenham settled in and looked for the breakthrough goal, though it never came in the first half. Stoke put together a very Stoke-like defense performance and not like a team being relegated, keeping the score level 0-0 going into the half.
The breakthrough that Spurs were waiting for finally came in the 52nd minute. After forcing a turnover, Dembele played a lovely through ball to a streaking Dele. He could have looked for Kane, who posted up in front of Butland, but instead waited for Christian Eriksen. A calm pass to the Dane resulted in a perfect shot far post, giving Spurs a 1-0 lead and opening the match up.
Spurs had a penalty shout just a few minutes later when it looked like Sonny was taken down in the penalty area, but the referee waved play on and it would ultimately be a crucial decision as just a minute later, Stoke City managed to get Diouf free on Hugo Lloris. Hugo beat Diouf to the ball, but his clearance attempt was right into Diouf. The ball just so happened to fall to the Stoke striker’s feet, leveling the match 1-1.
After Diouf recovered from his post-goal injury, Spurs kicked right back into high gear. After several Stoke fouls on the left flank, Christian Eriksen fed a free kick into the penalty area and found maybe the flailing hair of Harry Kane. Just to add to the confusion, FUTMOB gave the goal to Eriksen, as did ESPN. Official PL app gave it to Kane right after, as did Yahoo Sports. It’s probably going to be one that’s looked at after the match for the official goal. No matter who gets it, it was 2-1 Spurs.
(Writer’s note: Eriksen was eventually credited with the goal.)
After review, the Premier League Match Centre has awarded Spurs’ 2nd goal to Christian Eriksen— Premier League (@premierleague) April 7, 2018
Spurs had a big chance to put the dagger into Stoke’s heart in the 77th minute. Aurier came free down the right flank and played a great pass far side to Kane. Harry’s shot was blocked but fell to Dele. Instead of letting the ball fall thinking he didn’t have the time, he tried a flat-footed header that was easily caught by Butland.
After the near dagger, Stoke drew a free kick at the opposite end about 20 yards out. Xherdan Shaqiri’s attempt was as close as it gets, hitting the elbow of the goal and bouncing back into play, cleared eventually by Spurs. The ensuing corner kick resulted in nothing and Spurs managed to get out of danger holding onto their lead.
Another scary moment for Spurs in the 83rd minute came on a lackadaisical pass attempt by Dier, that was blocked by Diouf and carried out for a 5-1 situation with Vertonghen the only outfield player getting back. Somehow, Jan picked the absolute perfect moment to stop in the penalty area and snuffed out the pass headed for either Peter Crouch or Shaqiri, ending the threat that could have easily been the equalizer for the Potters.
Spurs came on the counter-attack right after that snuff out, leading a 5-3 that seemed to get stamped out, but a simple pass to Erik Lamela with yards of space freed it up again. The Argentine took a great shot on target but curled it just wide. Another opportunity to put the match away disappeared but Spurs clung to their lead.
Both Spurs and Stoke had some half chances in the dying moments, but the last real chance was Joe Allen managing to get a shot on net but he scuffed it enough where Hugo had plenty of time to react and easily make the save.
Thoughts on the match
- Stoke played like the Stoke of old the last few seasons and not a side that is more than likely going down this season.
- On the other side, f*ck Stoke because they committed about 75 fouls. I’ve never seen so many advantages played in one match before.
- If we were worried about a Chelsea hangover, this was manageable. It could have easily been four or five, but Stoke had some decent defensive plays today.
- Eriksen’s brace today continues to show his great form. Truly a world class player.
- I was hoping that Erik Lamela was being subbed in to spike someone after so many fouls. Murder Machine needed his chunk of flesh.
- Hugo didn’t have a great match, but he did enough to protect the lead after the fluky goal.
- With the win, Spurs are level with Liverpool on points with a match in hand at 67 points, 11 clear of Chelsea.
- Did we ever decide on what the reverse of St. Totteringham’s Day was? Arseover? St. Arsehole’s Day? Whatever the name, Spurs are now a whopping 16 points clear of the Gunners.