After a "great defeat" on a plastic pitch in Switzerland, as Harry Redknapp described his first taste of the Champions' League, Tottenham scraped a narrow win on the green grass of Stoke thanks to two goals by Gareth Bale – one unwitting, the other exquisite – and referee Chris Foy's failure to award Jon Walters a last-minute equaliser on his debut for the Potteries club.
From a corner by Matthew Etherington, Ryan Shawcross rose to head against the crossbar as Robert Huth pressured Heurelho Gomes. The rebound dropped to Walters, the £2.75 million newcomer from Ipswich Town, whose low header crossed the goalline before hitting the prostrate Peter Crouch in the midriff. Stoke's protests were in vain, Mr Foy seemingly telling them he "did not see it", and Tony Pulis's team have now lost both Premier League fixtures.
To add injury to insult Mamady Sidibe, who came on as a Stoke substitute, lasted only three minutes and could miss the rest of the season after snapping his Achilles tendon,
Bale, who scored only three times last season, had struck either side of Ricardo Fuller's riposte for Stoke during an 11-minute period midway through the first half. Both the Welsh wing-back's goals followed excellent work by Aaron Lennon, one of five players Redknapp brought into Spurs' starting line-up following their 3-2 first-leg defeat by Young Boys in Berne.
Redknapp later claimed "justice was done" because Huth had pushed Gomes. The Spurs manager added: "We were fantastic in the first half but they put us under pressure after half-time. We did what we had to and it was a well-deserved win." Bale's performance drew lavish praise. "His second goal was technique at its best. There won't be too many better goals this season, and there's no better left-sided player in the country."
Pulis accepted Huth's challenge on the keeper "looked a foul". But the Stoke manager added: "If he doesn't give that, it must be a goal. We just have to take it on the chin."
Stoke's followers, anxious to puncture the pretensions of the fancy dans from London, would doubtless have sung "Champions' League, you're havin' a laugh" regardless of Spurs' travails in the Stade de Suisse. No sooner had the first chorus reverberated around the Britannia Stadium, however, than the superior passing of Spurs reaped a bizarre reward. Lennon's run took him infield, from where he picked out Bale's dash into the 18-yard box with a sumptuous pass. Bale, at inside-right, took a heavy touch which allowed Thomas Sorensen to block. The ball flew into the air for Peter Crouch to head it goalward, and though Shawcross hooked off the line, his clearance struck Bale in the face and went in.
Stoke's equaliser was almost as messy. Walters earned a corner which Etherington flighted into the six-yard area. Younes Kaboul and Abdoulaye Faye tussled for the ball which fell for Fuller to volley home as Tom Huddlestone reacted slowly to the danger. Gomes, resplendent in Day-Glo orange, gave his defenders what for in true Peter Schmeichel style.
There was nothing scrappy about the winner. Lennon's chipped cross was cut back to Bale, who dispatched an angled volley from 15 yards that was controlled and vicious. Sorensen was static as it tore into the top far corner, though the Dane kept Stoke in contention in first-half stoppage time when he dived at Jermaine Jenas's feet following Bale's low cross.
The most likely source of a home goal was the substitute Tuncay Sanli, who brought an acrobatic save from Gomes with a shot which deflected off Kaboul and almost immediately headed wide when Etherington's corner provided a free header. Shawcross blazed over a good opportunity and Gomes sprawled to parry Fuller's half-volley, but with goalline technology, Stoke's Frank Lampard moment might well have produced a point.
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Bale
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content