Redknapp: We still have it all to play for

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Stoke City 1

White Hart Lane

Tottenham Hotspur just wanted to focus on football last night, but they were reminded of the problems which have jeopardised their campaign to bring Champions League football back to White Hart Lane.

For all their many obvious strengths, the lack of a fit and reliable centre-forward is costing Tottenham, and has been for weeks. Their 1-1 draw with Stoke City last night did end a run of three straight league defeats, but it cannot be considered a satisfactory result.

The evening started with an optimistic minute of applause and T-shirt tribute for Fabrice Muamba. But with Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, writing in his programme notes that Spurs must now "resume our season", the fans will have gone home frustrated.

Arsenal, who were 12 points behind Spurs last month, are now one point ahead of their north London rivals. Chelsea, who host Tottenham on Saturday, are five behind but at one point last night appeared set to narrow the gap to just one. The intra-city fight to make next year's Champions League is getting tighter.

"It's all to play for," said Harry Redknapp afterwards. "We can still finish above Arsenal. There's a long way to go yet: there's everything to play for. Arsenal won't win every game, will they? I want to finish third still."

The frustration for Tottenham is that the problem is obvious. Last night Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, both returned to their correct positions, were very good. Running with the ball, creating chances for others, or breaking into the box, they built some good attacks. But Louis Saha, who started up front on his own and came off after 73 minutes, was a peripheral figure. With Emmanuel Adebayor missing due to a hamstring problem, Spurs lack a focal point.

So, for the third game in a row, Tottenham could not turn their possession into chances, never mind goals. Until Rafael van der Vaart's headed equaliser from Bale's cross in stoppage time, Spurs had been stifled by Stoke's fierce, massed defence.

"I felt we needed to break them down, if we could," Redknapp reflected. "They were always going to be bigger and stronger than us."

He even resorted to lying to his team at half time. "I said Arsenal were winning and Chelsea were winning," Redknapp admitted. "Chelsea weren't winning but I said, 'They're both winning. Let's get after them, we need a win'. It didn't work, did it, obviously because we only drew."

Stoke's defending started from the front, with Peter Crouch and Jon Walters, and no player in red and white ever looked anything other than desperate to shut down Tottenham. "They're a very, very hard-working group of players who just give everything for one another," manager Tony Pulis said. Their restrictive game, an irritation in the first-half, became an infuriation as the game went on. Their hassling, jockeying and blocking when the ball was in play, and their rather calmer approach when it was not, stopped Spurs from building up too much.

And, with 16 minutes left, they fought their way into an unlikely lead. Jermaine Pennant's teasing free-kick from the left was headed by Robert Huth, and the loose ball was turned in by Cameron Jerome. Not pretty, but certainly effective, it was a perfect goal to match Stoke's efforts.

It might have been against the balance of play, but none of Spurs' earlier chances had been particularly good. The best two in the first half came when Bale and Modric switched roles; the winger dropping deep and playing in the on-rushing midfielder, both of whose shots flew past the far post.

Saha had a shot tipped over by Asmir Begovic, and Jermain Defoe, who came on to support him at half-time, buzzed around dangerously though rarely threatened. Bale had a shot deflected onto the crossbar minutes before Jerome's goal. But van der Vaart, whose first league start since January was mixed at best, was the only Tottenham player who could find a way through.

Booked: Tottenham Van der Vaart. Stoke Palacios.

Man of the match Modric

Referee M Jones (Cheshire)

Attendance 35,172

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific