Who would you like to come visiting on your anniversary? If you are Harry Redknapp, celebrating your first year in charge at Tottenham Hotspur, then Stoke City might not have been top of the list, even before they snatched the points at White Hart Lane. This win was deserved only as a triumph for dogged resistance in the face of Spurs' attempts to prise open one of the most stubborn defences in the league. It was also a victory for Stoke's strength in depth, something they are not noted for.
Thomas Sorensen came down with a virus 20 minutes before kick-off, which meant Steve Simonsen had to come in for his second league appearance of the season. The 30-year-old former Everton goalkeeper did not appear to be too fazed by the lack of notice. Simonsen, who pulled off three fine saves, was only beaten in his ability to make an impact by his fellow substitute, Glenn Whelan.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder had been on for 30 minutes when, after following Ricardo Fuller upfield, he was picked out by the Jamaican, hit his shot first time and beat Heurelho Gomes at his far post. It was the Potters' first win at White Hart Lane since 1975 and put them ninth, level on points with Liverpool. They now form a triumvirate – with Manchester United and Everton – to win at White Hart Lane in Redknapp's time in charge. Stoke's reputation as party-poopers, in their best performance on the road since joining the Premier League last year, has been well and truly confirmed.
By the time of Whelan's strike, Tottenham, who could have gone joint top temporarily with Manchester United if they had won, should have been far ahead of Tony Pulis's men. By the time of Whelan's strike, however, Tottenham were down to ten men, thanks also to Whelan. The midfielder tackled Aaron Lennon by the touchline and the England winger wanted to come off.
Redknapp wanted him to stay on as he had used all his substitutes but Lennon was adamant he had to go off for treatment. A debate ensued for a couple of minutes on the sidelines before Lennon disappeared down the tunnel with 14 minutes left. Redknapp said: "I was hoping Aaron would stay on as we were down to 10 men but he said his ankle was too sore, he said he couldn't carry on."
Stoke's approach often leaves a trail of broken and bruised bodies, although their endurance is normally better shown at their own stadium. Yet they began to work their way through Tottenham after only two minutes, albeit inadvertently. Jonathan Woodgate bravely and decisively dived in to head away Matthew Etherington's cross-shot but, as he did so, he was caught in the face by James Beattie's trailing leg. After that he only lasted another 13 minutes before he trudged off, replaced by Michael Dawson. It capped a bad week for the England international, who wasphotographed dancing in a nightclub last week with Peter Crouch. Nothing wrong with that, just that he was caught making rather strange facial expressions which added to his embarrassment.
Beattie had just as big a part to play when it came to defending his own net after 27 minutes. Peter Crouch's header had looped over Simonsen but Beattie, facing his own net, jumped and hooked his leg high to clear the danger. A minute later neither Beattie nor Simonsen could do anything about Niko Kranjcar's shot that ricocheted away off the post.
Simonsen's best save had come three minutes earlier when Lennon, who was Spurs' most effective forward, swapped flanks. Cutting in from the left, and on his right foot, he curled a shot that forced Simonsen to dive full length to push the ball away.
The theme remained the same in the second half when Robbie Keane's shot was palmed out by Simonsen and with Crouch bearing down six yards out, Ryan Shawcross and Danny Collins combined to clear just in time.
Keane had been disappointing while the tendency to single out Crouch in the air failed to bring the best out of those around him and Stoke's defenders will happily jump all afternoon like performing seals to head balls away.
Yet when Pulis took Beattie off, Fuller looked equally isolated, before they made a break for goal with four minutes remaining. Fuller ran at Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Wilson Palacios and emerged the other side with the ball, looking as shocked as the Spurs support. He looked up and found Whelan, who delivered the coup de grâce.
Pulis said: "Fuller pulled a genie out of the bag, he's a good player, and Glenn finished it with aplomb." And Redknapp's anniversary dinner plans went down the drain.
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Simonsen
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content