Stoke 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2 match report: Emmanuel Adebayor is the unlikely spur for the showdown to go fourth

Striker scores second goal in a week to put Tottenham back in top four after Charlie Adam is sent off for two bookings

For the first 35 games of the Premier League season, Emmanuel Adebayor contributed little to Tottenham’s attempts to qualify for the Champions League. All of a sudden, he appears the man most likely to guide them into the top four. Even for such an unpredictable footballer, this is quite a revival.

Adebayor’s winning goal at Stoke, six minutes from full-time, moved Spurs’ into fourth place, at least until Tuesday, when Arsenal face Wigan. Should the Gunners fail to beat the FA Cup winners, Spurs will head into their final match of the season, against Sunderland on Sunday, in control of their destiny.

After his contributions against Chelsea, where he scored one goal and created the other in the 2-2, and Stoke, Adebayor is suddenly flying. Stoke felt aggrieved with referee Kevin Friend for showing a second yellow card to Charlie Adam early in the second half, but Spurs deserve credit for fighting back strongly from a goal down. Results elsewhere ensure Stoke will contest a sixth consecutive season in the top flight, a fine achievement for the club.

Steven Nzonzi gave Stoke the lead after only three minutes before Clint Dempsey equalised 17 minutes later. Adebayor celebrated his winner with extravagance, but the forward’s dance routine will seem modest in comparison with the joy at White Hart Lane should Spurs finish above Arsenal. “The dream is still alive for us,” said their head coach, Andre Villas-Boas.

Tottenham have now gathered 23 points this season from losing positions, but their vulnerability at the back has been apparent in recent weeks, during which they have kept only one clean sheet in 12 league matches.

Spurs supporters hoping for greater durability from their team were disappointed immediately. Adam – booed throughout by the visiting fans – won a free-kick on the right and when he delivered, Nzonzi drifted into space and headed the ball in off the near post.

It was the 1,000th goal in the Premier League this season, and Stoke could not have wished for a better beginning to the game that marked their 150th anniversary.

Stoke were dominant; Spurs ill-at-ease, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and centre-back Steven Caulker particularly jittery. The home side’s work rate and aggression troubled Villas-Boas’ team with Adam, targeted by Spurs fans because of bad tackles on Gareth Bale during his spells with Blackpool and Liverpool, a regular threat on the right.

Yet Villas-Boas’ side have shown their mettle many times during this campaign, and they did so again here.

Marc Wilson did well to intercept Scott Parker’s cross-field pass intended for Aaron Lennon, but when the loose ball fell to Dempsey, the American’s instinctive effort from 30 yards looped into the net, with Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic poorly positioned.

Throughout the opening 45 minutes, there was a definite edge to the match, with anger never far below the surface. Huth, Begovic and Adam were all booked by referee Kevin Friend before – to the joy of the Spurs supporters – Adam received another yellow card, barely a minute into the second half. “You see some challenges in some games that don’t get bookings and then you see two like that hat received yellow cards, and that really disappoints me,” said Stoke manager Tony Pulis. “I don’t think Charlie touched the player with either challenge.

Both Adam’s cautions came for fouls on Jan Vertonghen, the first a late challenge as the Belgian tried to clear, the second a trip as Vertonghen accelerated forward on the left.

One of Stoke’s principal strengths is, however, their defensive organisation, and as brightly as Bale has shone this season, Tottenham would have been much more menacing at the start of the second half had they been able to rely on the guile of Luka Modric, who was sold to Real Madrid last summer.

What opportunities they had were fleeting. Bale’s low corner hit Dempsey and bounced over from six yards, with the forward scarcely aware of what had happened. Tom Huddlestone forced his way into the penalty area and the ball broke to Bale, whose cross-shot was too close to Begovic.

With a little more than 20 minutes remaining, Spurs should have taken the lead but Vertonghen, alone at the far post, headed Huddlestone’s free-kick over the bar.

Jermain Defoe replaced Lennon with 15 minutes remaining and shortly after he had done so Mousa Dembele, another substitute, slid a delicate pass to Bale inside the penalty area, only for the Welshman to shoot just wide after eluding the excellent Ryan Shawcross. It was a chance he should have taken.

Spurs’ pressure meant Stoke had space on the break, meaning they could still cause danger. From Dean Whitehead’s free-kick, Shawcross found room at the far post to plant a header just over the bar.

Spurs drew breath, attacked again, and this time their work brought reward. Dembele guided Bale’s pass into the path of Dempsey, who was played onside by Andy Wilkinson. Dempsey drove the ball across goal and Adebayor provided the firm finish that was required.

Life is rarely straightforward where Tottenham are concerned, and there was still time for Wilson to head wide a cross from substitute Cameron Jerome, who had outwitted Vertonghen on the Stoke right.

Wigan produced one of the surprise results of the season by beating Manchester City at Wembley two days ago. Now, those who hold Spurs’ fortunes in their hearts will them to produce another. “Arsenal’s experience is immense and you expect them to do their job,” said Villas-Boas. Yet Adebayor’s sudden renaissance proves that nothing can be taken for granted.

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

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003