Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Tottenham 1 Stoke 1

In the circumstances, it might seem harsh to chastise Tottenham for such an insipid and subdued performance. This, after all, is a club still understandably recovering from the emotional trauma of Fabrice Muamba’s collapse after a cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Yet the frustration on the face of Harry Redknapp and the simmering anger of the crowd, even after Rafael van der Vaart’s injury-time equaliser, told a wider story. This was not some one-off blip that could be simply explained by the exceptional circumstances of the past week but was, in fact, a fourth straight Premier League match without victory.

Tottenham have now accumulated just four points from a possible 15 since Fabio Capello resigned as England manager and Redknapp was widely anointed his natural heir. Coincidence? Certainly not to many of the Tottenham fans who have grown used to seasons of great promise petering out in disappointment.

Spurs have also now slipped out of the Premier League’s top three for the first time since November and, most worryingly, are suddenly lacking much of the attacking swagger that has characterised so much of their season.

Redknapp even admitted that he had tried, in vain, to employ some kidology with his players at half-time by telling them that both Chelsea and Arsenal were winning, even though he knew that the scoreline between Manchester City and Chelsea was actually 0-0.

“I said a draw’s no good, we need to be positive but it didn’t work,” he said. Redknapp also stressed that the players’ shock over Muamba’s had not impacted on the performance, and instead blamed a lack of patience.

“The players were ready but we stopped passing the ball,” he said. “I don’t think there’s panic, not in the minds of the players,” he said. “We can still finish above Arsenal – they won’t win every game.”

The announcement of the date — next Tuesday — for the replayed FA Cup quarter-final against Muamba’s Bolton Wanderers drew instinctive applause. So too did the warm-up T-shirts, worn by both teams and all the match officials, which displayed the message, ‘Get Well Soon Fabrice’.

Redknapp had said that he would not select any player who was not in the correct of frame of mind but, significantly, a hamstring injury did ultimately deprive him of Emmanuel Adebayor. On this evidence, it is vital that Adebayor returns to face Chelsea on Saturday, not so much for his goals but an ability to lead the line and knit their attack and midfield.

With Cameron Jerome twice shooting narrowly wide in the opening 10 minutes, Tottenham did gradually find their rhythm as Gareth Bale’s incisive running consistently pushed Stoke into their own half and helped create their best chances.

Van der Vaart pounced on a loss of concentration from Wilson Palacios following good work from Bale but had his shot smothered by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Luka Modric then had two sights of goal, dragging a shot just wide on the first occasion and then having his second effort deflected past Begovic’s post. The match duly settled into a pattern of sustained Tottenham possession, only for some diligent build-up play to be ruined by a wayward final ball. Louis Saha, playing as the most advanced striker, was especially struggling in front of Van der Vaart. Indeed, half-time had not even arrived before Tottenham fans were advocating the introduction of Jermain Defoe.

Saha did briefly respond, forcing a fabulous one-handed save from Begovic, but his limited general contribution only highlighted the absence of Adebayor.

The demand for Defoe was duly answered at half-time, with Niko Kranjcar sacrificed as Van der Vaart moved to the right and Tottenham resumed in a more offensive 4-4-2 formation. Bale’s ability to drift dangerously in from the left, however, continued to offer Spurs’ only real threat and he sent a looping shot beyond Begovic that cannoned off the cross-bar.

The longer Stoke held out, the more adventurous they became on the counter-attack. Jermaine Pennant’s set-piece delivery had been a persistent threat and, on 75 minutes, his precise free-kick was met by Robert Huth, whose headed flick was diverted past Brad Friedel by Jerome.

Spurs appeared out of ideas but, with the game into its third minute of injury-time, Bale provided a wonderful cross that was skilfully headed beyond Begovic by Van der Vaart. It was rapturously received but the mixture of boos and muted applause that greeted the final whistle more accurately reflected the mounting sense of dissatisfaction.

Tottenham (4-4-1-1): Walker; King (Nelsen 83), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar (Defoe h-t), Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Saha (Giovani 73). Subs: Cudicini (g), Rose, Livermore, Sandro. Booked: Van der Vaart. Goal: Van der Vaart 90

Stoke (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Pennant, Palacios (Whitehead 57), Diao (Whelan 26), Jerome (Delap 83); Walters; Crouch. Subs: Sorensen (g), Upson, Shotton, Jones. Booked: Palacios. Goal: Jerome 75

Referee: M Jones (Chester).
Att: 35,172

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