Tottenham vs Stoke City match report: Bojan Krkic and Jon Walters take advantage as timorous Spurs make it all insultingly easy

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 2: Kyle Naughton was sent off late in the game to rub salt into the wounds

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The worst thing about Tottenham’s defeat and performance – with some competition – was that it was no surprise. This was Spurs’ fourth home league defeat of the season, all of them after Europa League games, all of them against modest but canny opposition.

Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United – not exactly form teams – had already come to White Hart Lane and won and on Sunday it was the turn of Stoke City. Excepting Liverpool, they are sides Tottenham would expect to finish some way ahead of this season and yet Spurs are so bad here, so devoid of confidence and of form, that they have been well beaten by all of them.

The home wins over Queen’s Park Rangers and Southampton are the exceptions now and not the rule. Stoke knew exactly what to do, denying Spurs space, closing them down and taking advantage of some dismal defending. The visitors went 2-0 up in the first half and, despite Nacer Chadli’s late consolation, they were never in any danger of not winning the game.

Few at White Hart Lane seemed to expect anything different. Whether the issue is the atmosphere, the size of the pitch or the confidence of the players, the problem is clear. This is no longer a healthy environment for Tottenham. As soon as Mike Jones blew the final whistle, loud music was immediately played over the loudspeakers, drowning most of the boos. It felt planned and understandably so.

Even the one moment of levity was tinged with sadness, as Spurs fans sang “1-0 in the San Siro” to Peter Crouch, a reminder that less than four years ago they were winning Champions League knock-out games away from home. Now they are looking like an average Premier League side.

Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards that he is working to “find a solution” and he will certainly need time to impose his methods on these players. “It’s clear we need to improve a lot,” he said. “In football you never have time, a long time – you need a  result. We need to find a solution very quick and in the next few weeks, we change our mentaility and find a solution, this is my challenge.”

 

Both Stoke’s goals were insultingly easy. The first, after five minutes, started with Steven Nzonzi winning the ball in midfield and passing to Bojan Krkic. On the half-way line, across to the left-hand side, Bojan simply ran diagonally across the pitch, towards goal, barely having to evade a tackle on his way. Reaching the edge of the box, he simply put the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

In Spurs’ previous home league game, against Newcastle, they had been comfortable at 1-0 before conceding needlessly, losing their heads and then the game. Their reaction to going behind this time was a similar mix of panic and fear, with too many of the players doing their best to evade responsibility, hiding on the pitch and avoiding the ball.

Once ahead, Stoke did not need to take the initiative, because it was obvious Spurs would gift it to them again. They just sat back and waited for the mistakes, and 12 minutes before the interval one duly arrived. Ryan Shawcross headed the ball forward, Danny Rose misjudged it and allowed Mame Biram Diouf to run goal-side of him. From there it was very easy: Diouf crossed to Jon Walters, who was unmarked, and he beat Hugo Lloris from close range.

The rest of the first half happened at walking pace. Spurs were dazed, staggering and with no idea how to turn the game around. They needed to get to half-time and avoid conceding a third; that they did was one of their few successes of the afternoon.

Spurs5.jpg
Jon Walters scores Stoke's second

 

Pochettino had given first league starts of the season to Harry Kane and Andros Townsend but they had done very little and Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembélé were thrown on at half-time. “We tried to be more comfortable in possession,” Pochettino explained, but the improvement was only marginal.

Stoke were happy to sit back and it took a brilliant hit for Spurs to pull a goal back, as Chadli volleyed Rose’s floated cross perfectly into the net. Even that, though, did not owe much to concerted pressure and Asmir Begovic had just one real save to make, from a Lamela free-kick.

When Kyle Naughton was sent off with five minutes left, for pulling back Victor Moses,  that was the end of the game as a contest.

Spurs2.jpg
Kyle Naughton receives his red card

 

“We had a game plan and stuck to it,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes explained. “We were very good today. Spurs are good individually, they have got some great talent, but if you get your shape and structure right...” He did not need to finish his sentence.

Comments