Crouch 'says sorry' with double strike

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Stoke City 2

Peter Crouch had been paying penance for four days before this match, ever since his rush of blood to the head meant he was sent off against Real Madrid last Tuesday. Those two yellow cards in the Santiago Bernabeu hurt him but damaged Tottenham even more. His sending-off condemned his team-mates to 75 minutes of constant pressure, and they gradually wilted as the hosts racked up four goals in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

So, how do you repay your team when your actions have all but cost you a chance of making the second leg a competitive game? The England forward has been saying sorry to all and sundry, but here his actions, again, as in Spain, spoke louder than any words.

His two goals helped Spurs beat Stoke and kept them in the frame for a return to the Champions League next season. His headers here, either side of Luka Modric's well-taken effort, doubled his season's league tally, which is to say, up from two to four goals.

Crouch was worried how the home support would respond on his first game in front of them, post-Madrid. "This was my chance to say sorry to all the fans that had travelled there," he said.

"Hopefully, I've repaid them with a couple of goals. The sending-off was probably as low as I've felt. The sheer importance of it, it's the quarter-final of the Champions League, Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. With all those things together, it was very disappointing.

"With each goal that went in, I felt I cost the team. I held my hands up honestly and I still feel I've got something to offer before the season's out."

This win kept Spurs close to Manchester City, yet Roberto Mancini's side have breathing space even if they don't beat Liverpool tonight.

Still, Crouch feels that Spurs could snatch that last Champions League place. He said: "We can definitely do it, without doubt. There's enough ability, enough belief and we've got enough games. We've got Man City again at their place [they also played them late last season to reach the Champions League] so it could be another pivotal game."

As for Stoke, after falling two behind, they reacted like a team who suddenly remembered they had an FA Cup semi-final in a week's time and needed to impress their manager.

They could have gone into Sunday's game at Wembley, against Bolton, with higher morale if, after Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones's fine goals, Jonathan Walters hadn't committed the miss of the season from just five yards out.

If he was looking for sympathy, Crouch was not very far away.

Scorers: Tottenham Crouch 11, 34, Modric 18 Stoke City Etherington 27, Jones 41.

Substitutes: Tottenham Gallas (Assou-Ekotto, 89). Stoke City Whitehead (Whelan, 76), Fuller (Pennant, 76), Diao (Delap, 76).

Booked: Tottenham Huddlestone. Stoke City Etherington, Pennant, Wilkinson.

Man of the match Modric Match rating 7/10.

Possession Tottenham 53% Stoke City 47%.

Attempts on target Tottenham 8 Stoke City 5.

Referee K Friend (Leicestershire) Att 32,702.

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