Crouch redemption downs Stoke
White Hart Lane
Stoke gave a very good account of themselves and will feel unlucky that they didn`t walk away with a point after losing 3-2 in a cracking game at White Hart Lane to Tottenham. Some slack defending saw Peter Crouch and Luka Modric put Spurs into a 2-0 lead before the 20th minute, but Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones scored superb goals either side of a second for Crouch. In the second half the Potters were by far the better side and were very unlucky not to snatch a draw.
With Danny Higginbotham out for the season, Marc Wilson surprisingly moved across to fill in at left-back while Andy Wilkinson returned at right-back. Jermaine Pennant overcame a slight knock to start, but there was once again no sign of John Carew who has again failed to recover from injury.
Spurs started on the front foot immediately as Modric bossed the midfield. Delap and Whelan sat far too deep which allowed too much time and space for the Croatian to run the show.
Peter Crouch, on a mission after his senseless sending off at Real Madrid, got the opener after little more then ten minutes. A short corner by Spurs allowed Roman Pavlyuchenko all the time in the world to pick out Crouch who glanced the ball past the helpless Begovic.
Modric doubled the lead minutes later as he and Van Der Vaat weaved through the Potters defence, allowing Modric to out run Huth and slip it through Begovic`s legs. Now it was time to panic as a long and frustrating afternoon looked in prospect on the eve of the FA Cup Semi-Final.
However, as Spurs had a breather from attacking the Potters enjoyed some possession as Jones caused problems for both Dawson and Kaboul. Etherington looked lively and Whelan controlled the midfield, and not before long we were back in the game.
Spurs right-back Vedran Corluka got himself in a tangle on the half-way line giving Etherington a free run down the left wing. The ex-Spurs man darted inside and out Corluka and Kaboul, before entering the box he jiggled past Huddlestone before expertly placing the ball inside the far post from an acute angle. It was a wonderful solo goal, mirroring that of Gareth Bale in the San Siro.
But just as that goal breathed some much needed life into the players, Spurs reinforced their 2 goal advantage. Some more woeful defending allowed Crouch to head his second as Huddlestone picked him out with a whipped cross. How you fail to notice a six foot seven striker like Crouch is beyond me, but he sneaked up on Shawcross and beat him to the ball before finishing well.
Tottenham were irresistible going forward but very suspect at the back. Andy Wilkinson showed gritted determination as he slid in to dispossess Huddlestone on the half way line. The ball fell right at the feet of Jones who took at few steps before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the top corner. It was a fantastic goal of real quality that gave Kenwyne his first since New Year. For a player who heavily relies on confidence, that should do him the world of good and will hopefully see him have a strong end to the season.
So 3-2 at half-time with both defences conceding very poor goals. The scoreline was guaranteed to change in the second half then.
Well, it was Stoke who came out the much brighter side, and only a piece of fortune kept Spurs ahead. Jones was a reformed player after his goal and he went galloping down the right wing in the 51st minute. He breezed past Assou-Ekotto before firing in a wonderful cross for Walters, who was lurking behind the keeper. Gomes got the faintest of touches on the ball to divert it onto Walters thigh and he sadly couldn`t control the ball as it cannoned off him and then on to the post.
Jones himself was next to go close, as he rose highest to meet Pennant`s cross and his header fell inches wide of the post. Pennant then whipped a free-kick that forced Begovic into a save, and by this stage there only looked like one team scoring.
Referee Kevin Friend had a refreshingly good game, and he correctly ruled out Spurs a 4th goal for clear infringement. A deep corner was bundled over the line by Pavlyuchenko but he pushed Begovic, Huth and Shawcross out of the way to do so. Tottenham were more dangerous and Pavlyuchenko almost scored a screamer from 30 yards but Begovic was well up to the task of beating it away.
Pulis made a drastic change by bringing on Ricardo Fuller, Dean Whitehead, and surprisingly Salif Diao in a triple substitution. Fuller almost had an immediate impact but he was just a yard to slow to latch on to Jones flick on. Kenwyne then went close to a second but his crunching effort from 25 yards was wonderfully saved by Gomes.
Stoke ran out of time in the end, but they certainly deserved more then they got. The result leaves then in 12th, but on a positive note they look in top form going in to the FA Cup Semi in 7 days Sunday. Next destination: Wembley.
Stoke: Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross (c), Huth, Wilson, Pennant( Fuller 76), Whelan (Diao 76), Delap (Whitehead 76), Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs not Used: Sorensen, Faye, Collins, Pugh.