They are as good as out of the Champions' League, but Tottenham are still in with a chance of being among Europe's elite next season. Having lost 4-0 to Real Madrid, a game against Stoke might not have been Harry Redknapp's idea of a hangover cure. At times Spurs played like their brains were still scrambled, but Peter Crouch who lost his head against Madrid, showed more composure to score twice.
Spurs recorded their first League win in two months, but the team they are now trying to catch, Manchester City, will be six points ahead if they beat Liverpool tomorrow so their task is not easy. Redknapp, however, remains confident. He said: "We're still in there for fourth place, it's still wide open, anything can happen."
The result in Spain had hung over Spurs for four days, but an early goal began to focus their minds. A short corner surprised Stoke, Rafael van der Vaart slipped a pass to Roman Pavlyuchenko and his quick cross was met by Crouch's head from close range. The Russian had been brought into the side at the expense of Jermain Defoe, and Pavlyuchenko's willingness to drop a little deeper helped set up the second as well. He fed Luka Modric and the Croatian, easy as you like, drifted past a couple of defenders and shot between Asmir Begovic's legs.
That should havebeen that, with Stoke seemingly in self-preservation mode, one week before their date at Wembley to play Bolton in their first FA Cup semi-final in four decades. Then again, this is a team that prides itself on its commitment, and with a few first-team places up for grabs at Wembley, some sort of response was inevitable.
Stoke's first goal was, nevertheless, a surprise. Having barely registered a shot in the first 25 minutes, Michael Dawson and Vedran Corluka left a ball for each other and Matthew Etherington stole in. Younès Kaboul was unable to catch the winger, who ran 50 yards and shot precisely past Heurelho Gomes.
Spurs' third goal was the best of a game that was becoming increasingly open and frantic. An excellent move saw Benoît Assou-Ekotto spread the play to the opposite wing to Corluka. The full-back had Tom Huddlestone in support, and the midfielder's first-time cross found Crouch, who directed his header across Begovic. "I'm pleased for Crouchy," Redknapp said. "I wasn't sure what reaction he would get from the crowd." Strangely, Corluka felt he was getting a raw deal from one supporter and tried to confront him after the final whistle, but was held back by Redknapp's support staff.
The third goal was simple, quick and efficient – the sort of move that would present a real threat to Jose Mourinho's side. Yet Tottenham are also a danger to themselves right now. After Crouch in Spain, here it was Gareth Bale. He was caught in possession by Andy Wilkinson and the ball ran for Kenwyne Jones who made good ground before curling an excellent left-foot shot into the top corner.
It was Stoke who looked more likely to score in the second half and five minutes after the interval, Jones crossed but Jonathan Walters, in front of an untended goal, could only get his thigh on the ball and direct it on to the post. Potters fans will be hoping there is no repeat next Sunday.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the match: Modric
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content