Tottenham Hotspur 3 Stoke City 0 match report: Mousa Dembele inspires Spurs to give Sherwood second win

Roberto Soldado and Aaron Lennon had also scored for Tottenham

When Daniel Levy replaced Andre Villas-Boas with Tim Sherwood this must have been precisely the sort of afternoon he envisaged. After months of slow, muddled, anxious performances at White Hart Lane, ponderous in midfield, nervous up front, at odds with the crowd, this felt like the freshest of new starts, two days before New Year’s Eve.

Tottenham were very worthy winners against Stoke City, playing the brisk, confident attacking football that had evaded them here for some time. Spurs did not score three goals in a league game during the last eight months of Villas-Boas’s tenure but now they have done it twice in three games, giving Sherwood his second win as head coach.

“They were good from start to finish,” said Sherwood of his players, after their most convincing home performance of the season. As his 4-4-2 team tore into a rather limited Stoke side, it almost felt as if a weight here had been lifted. “We set about Stoke from the outset and moved the ball well and created enough chances to win two games in the first half.”

Sherwood’s game-plan is simpler than Andre Villas-Boas’s was, and that is no bad thing. From the start the intention was to free Aaron Lennon down the right wing, and for his crosses to target Spurs’ front pair. It should have sent them ahead after 15 minutes, as Kyle Naughton found Lennon and his pass was somehow skewed by first Emmanuel Adebayor and then Christian Eriksen with the goal inviting. Next time it was Paulinho who found Lennon, only for Soldado to shoot wide, before Soldado mis-timed headers from Lennon and Ezekiel Fryers crosses within one minute.

Soldado did not allow his head to drop, though, and soon helped Spurs into the lead. Pulling out to the right, he found Emmanuel Adebayor with a perfect ball to the far-post. Adebayor chested it to set up an acrobatic volley which Ryan Shawcross blocked with his hand. Soldado stepped up and, for the fifth time in his Spurs career, scored from the spot.

Tottenham's Mousa Dembele (right) scores against Stoke Tottenham's Mousa Dembele (right) scores against Stoke It was the least that Tottenham deserved and they finished the first half just as well as they started the second. Paulinho shot over the bar twice but more than made it up for it with some remarkable moments of individual skill, managing a few times to flick the ball over his head with his heel, either to a team-mate or for his own run.

Paulinho was excellent – Sherwood called him “immense and fantastic” - but Dembélé was even better. This was probably his finest ever performance for Tottenham, as he revelled in the space given him by 4-4-2, taking the ball from his defence, starting attacks and setting Spurs’ tempo throughout. Early in the second half Dembélé characteristically took the ball in midfield and charged forward with it, eventually passing to Lennon, whose sharp cross was horribly scuffed by Soldado.

Dembélé might have sensed he would have to score the second himself, so that is just what he did: 25 yards from goal, he carried the ball past Steven N’Zonzi, checked back the other way and rifled the ball into the far bottom corner with his left foot. It was only Dembélé’s second league goal for Spurs, but if he can follow it with more he could be a very special player.

The game was over and it took only another four minutes for the third to come. Adebayor broke forward and passed to Soldado, knocking his return pass into the path of Lennon to his right. Lennon controlled it on his thigh and hit it on the volley, and a deflection off Erik Pieters took it over Thomas Sorensen and into the top corner.

From that point on it was fairly gentle, with Lennon and Adebayor withdrawn for Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli. Tottenham travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday afternoon and Sherwood will not want to make too many changes from this, nearly his best side. Lamela might have scored a fourth when Andy Wilkinson blocked his shot but in terms of action that was it.

Stoke City had been out of the match for a long time. There was really just one moment when they might have got into it, when Michael Dawson brought down Oussama Assaidi in the box when it was still 0-0. Kevin Friend waved play on and when Mark Hughes merely said that it “could have been a penalty”, it was because he knew that his team had simply been out-played by the better side.

“If I am honest, in terms of the quality on show and the way Spurs played we found it very difficult to get anywhere near them,” said the Stoke manager, entirely accurately. “They were sharper to each and every ball and half-a-yard quicker. They are a good team and they looked fully-motivated and every one of the players wanted to get on the ball and affect the game.”

The most impact Stoke had on a one-sided second half was when Charlie Adam fouled Paulinho, forcing him off with a foot injury, leaving him struggling for the trip to Old Trafford. Sherwood compared his injury list to an “infirmary” and Spurs would like some good news before New Year’s Day.

These difficult trips are not the games that will define Stoke’s season. Everton and Liverpool at home next month will inform more.

Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris 6; Naughton 7, Dawson 6, Chiriches 7, Fryers 6; Lennon 7 (Lamela, 75), Paulinho 8 (Capoue, 62), Dembele 9, Eriksen 7; Soldado 7, Adebayor  7 (Chadli, 80)

Stoke (4-2-3-1): Sorensen 5; Wilkinson 5 (Muniesa, 81), Shawcross 5, Cameron 6, Pieters 5; N’Zonzi 7, Palacios 5 (Pennant, 68, 5); Walters 6, Ireland 5 (Adam, 50, 3), Assaidi 5; Crouch 5

Rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Dembele

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game