Kranjcar adds polish to Tottenham's unfamiliar steel

Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Online

Niko Kranjcar's goal 13 minutes from time established Tottenham as strong favourites to finish in fourth place in the Premier League, placing Liverpool under pressure to gain a point at least against Manchester United at Old Trafford today.

Should they fail, the Anfield side could find themselves seven points adrift of Harry Redknapp's team before they play again, a week today, assuming that Tottenham overcome doomed Portsmouth at White Hart Lane next Saturday.

Tottenham played against 10 men for most of the second half yesterday after Dean Whitehead was sent off but had just taken the lead through Eidur Gudjohnsen's first goal for the club. In winning, they joined Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in winning here this season, which seems to say something, given that Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa – the other contenders for fourth place – could only draw.

Redknapp is concerned whether he has a squad strong enough to stay ahead in the race. After the loss of Jermain Defoe in midweek increased his injured roster to 10, the Tottenham manager must now await a scan on Roman Pavlyuchenko, who – like Defoe – has a hamstring injury.

The players Redknapp could put out showed qualities not always associated with Tottenham teams, which delighted Redknapp. "If you come here you have to compete," he said. "If you don't you get run over."

Nonetheless, it was moments of more recognisable skill that won the points, first from Gudjohnsen, Pavlyuchenko's replacemnent, who beat Abdoulaye Faye to Crouch's pass 20 seconds into the second half and rifling the ball past Thomas Sorensen.

Kranjcar's deft touches were a feature throughout, culminating in the winning goal, driven home from 12 yards after Gudjohnsen's dummy had let Benoit Assou-Ekotto's square pass meet the Croatian's far-post run.

Redknapp agreed with Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, that Whitehead had been unlucky to go, penalised twice for tackles on Luka Modric that were late but not malicious, confirming to Pulis that he had been right to ask Mike Riley, the new referees' chief, to consider replacing Mike Dean.

"We've had some bad decisions when Mike Dean has refereed us this season and this is the third of our players he has sent off," Pulis said.

Dean awarded Stoke a penalty when Assou-Ekotto pushed Dave Kitson. Matt Etherington converted and Stoke wasted another chance as Ricardo Fuller blazed over in the six-yard box.

Attendance: 27,575

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Kranjcar

Match rating: 7/10

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