A terrific win for Spurs at Stoke City. Niko Kranjcarâ€™s 77th minute half volley winner capped an eventful second half and gave us our fourth maximum points haul in a row.
Things didnâ€™t look quite so rosy after a first half that had seen Pavlyuchenko join Jermain Defoe in the hamstring clinic and Stoke slightly edge a not very pretty spectacle. The closest weâ€™d come to a goal was through a couple of runs from Bale and a Kranjcar shot that Simonsen almost spilled into the path of Crouch. In general though we struggled to keep possession as Modric was bypassed and bundled out of it and Kitson and Fuller got their heads first to a series of quality crosses and balls into our area. Gareth Bale felt the full force of Stokeâ€™s muscular approach early on, the Spurs bench were adamant that this was a deliberate tactic with Joe Jordan in particular making his point strongly to Mike Dean.
Gudjohnsen came on for Pav and was largely anonymous. We needed him to get involved and after 20 seconds of the restart he did just that and in spectacular fashion. A combination with Crouch led to Gudjohnsen trying to hold off Abdoulaye Faye as they raced into the box. The Icelander was too strong for the defender and after chesting the ball forward he thumped a left foot volley into the roof of the net for his first ever Spurs goal. A few minutes later things got even better as Dean Whitehead was given a second yellow after heâ€™d been outwitted by Modric and was harshly sent off. Stoke looked shell-shocked and Modric and Kranjcar started finding the space that had been missing in the first half. Gudjohnsen looked interested and skilful and was linking play well. We took control and just needed to find a second goal to kill the game off.
The second goal came, but it went to Stoke. Benoit Assou-Ekotto tangled with Kitson in the area despite the fact the ball was sailing over the top of both of them. It was a stupid challenge and a very very poor penalty to give away. Etherington grabbed the lifeline and scored. Sixty four minutes gone now and weâ€™d managed to turn a winning situation into one where we were hanging on. The home crowd got behind their team, we lost some composure and Ricardo Fuller lifted a shot over an open goal from 8 yards. Things looked shaky as the midfield had disappeared again but then after a lovely flowing move down the left Assou-Ekotto cut a ball back which Gudjohnsen dummied and Kranjcar absolutely leathered past Sorenson from 14 yards. He wouldâ€™ve barely seen it. All of a sudden the work and commitment was back in the Spurs team. Stoke threw everything at us (including one Delap long throw from inside his own half!) and the defending was desperate occasionally. Bale nearly made it three after a run from the halfway line but then we suffered a huge let off when Bassong misjudged a back header and Sidibe fell over rather than accept the chance. Jake Livermore made his Spurs debut in a time wasting manoeuvre from Redknapp and we held on.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that the sending off changed the game. Stoke had dictated the tempo for much of the first half and whilst weâ€™d restricted the long throws, Kitson and Fuller were still winning enough in the air to worry us. The Croatians found room in the second half and in particular Modric had a much better time of it. Redknapp will be delighted that he didnâ€™t need to risk Palacios before Wednesday and thrilled that Gudjohnsen played a part. Our bench had five players on it who have never played a league game for us so the tweaking of Romanâ€™s hamstring wonâ€™t please him quite so much. Resources are severely stretched.
You could say that we made life difficult for ourselves and perhaps shouldâ€™ve won more comfortably after going a goal and a man up but only Chelsea, the Woolwich Wanderers and Man Utd have won at Stoke this season which shows the quality of the three points. Well done chaps.
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