Monday Night Live! Stoke City vs Tottenham Hotspur

by | Apr 18, 2016

Good evening everybody, tonight’s live Premier League match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur has rather been put into the shade by events elsewhere, and Spurs might well consider this to be very much to their advantage. With attention today largely centred on the performances of referee Jon Moss and Jamie Vardy during yesterday’s match between Leicester City and Stoke City, it doesn’t particularly feel as if there has been a great deal of attention paid to this match.

It does, however, matter. Spurs are at the time of writing eight points behind Leicester City with tonight’s match being their game in hand. If they win tonight, that gap drops to five points, with Leicester having dropped points in their last match. A previously impervious team at least has a chink of vulnerability about it. And Spurs, who should at least be well rested having not played since last Sunday’s win against Manchester United, should be in a strong position to be able to take advantage of any further slip-ups. As for Stoke… they’ve some injury problems, but they’re not the kicking people up in the air specialists that they were made out to be under Tony Pulis (they weren’t at the time, really) and are plenty capable of winning this match.

But anyway, here are the teams: I’ll be back shortly before kick-off the big match. For those of you who are too impatient for this, why not entertain yourselves with this morning’s Twohundredpercent Video of the Day? It’s a corresponding league fixture between these two teams from 1976 at The Victoria Ground. Back at about five to eight! (And yes, that is who you think it is keeping goal for Stoke this evening, and yes, he is still younger than me, so there’ll be no jokes of *that* nature tonight.)

Stoke City: Given, Cameron, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan, Imbula, Shaqiri, Afellay, Arnautovic, Bojan.

Spurs: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Dembele; Lamela, Eriksen, Alli, Kane.

Ian April 18, 20168:03 pm

Right ho, and we’re ready to go. Spurs in their light blue change kit tonight. How very twenty-first century! They’re shooting from right to left in the first half, if you’re reading this with no access to the match on the television or wherever.
So, Shay Given starts for Stoke City, following the horrible injury that Jack Butland sustained during a recent England sojourn. No further jokes from me about his age. He’s three years younger than me, at least. He’s dressed like the Tango man. One for older readers, there. Like Shay
Given, for example. Damn, I did promise that I wouldn’t go there.

Ian April 18, 20168:08 pm

Here’s the thing, with Stoke City. You never know which one will turn up. They were, of course, for many years the dour, unabashed workers of the Premier League. Dependable and hard-working, hard work for those who prioritise aesthetics above all else. They’re a much better team now, of course. But they have become unpredictable, and we can’t ever quite be sure which Stoke City will turn up. For all this, though, they’re still a better team now. It feels as though it should be a contradiction, but it isn’t.

Ian April 18, 20168:10 pm

Chance for Spurs, as a sumptuous through-ball from Lamela puts Harry Kane into a goal-scoring position. Kane, however, gets the ball stuck between his legs and has to wriggle into position before shooting low and seeing his shot blocked by Given’s legs. Smart save.

Ian April 18, 20168:12 pm

Goal for Spurs! And it’s a wonderful goal, too – Harry Kane, on the left-hand side of the penalty area, works himself inside and curls the ball through the eye of a needle, through four defenders, and curling beyond Given’s grasp and into the corner of the goal. That was another beautiful goal from Kane.

Ian April 18, 20168:16 pm

First up, let me briefly go back to what a great block that was by Shay Given a couple of minutes before the goal. Years of experience, moving into exactly the right position to maximise the angle and keeping the most likely finishes blocked. And he was blameless on the goal, which was an absolute belter from Harry Kane. This is the best Spurs team that I can remember ever having seen.

Ian April 18, 20168:22 pm

The game has settled down a bit, after a frantic first fifteen minutes. Spurs seem largely in control at the moment, though Stoke are now getting spells of possession. There were times during the opening ten minutes when it felt as though they might only barely get a touch of the ball all night. A couple of Spurs’ passes, however, have been short and Stoke have slowed the pace of the game when in possession and have nudged themselves into half-reasonable attacking positions. With the wind behind them, though, Spurs purr, at times.

Ian April 18, 20168:30 pm

Personally, I still think it’s a bit too much of a stretch for Spurs to win the league, regardless of this evening’s result. Even if Leicester City stumble, they have to do so more than once. The gap just *feels* too great to make up. Spurs supporters will, I think, remember this season with considerable affection, no matter what happens.

Chance for Stoke, when Arnautovic shoots from outside the penalty area and Loris has to block the ball. They’re getting more and more into the game.

Ian April 18, 20168:36 pm

Spurs just broke and had half an attack, but prior to that Stoke had largely been in control for the previous five minutes or so, and it really looked as if Spurs had lost their rhythm and quite a lot of their shape. But still, for all that, Mousa Dembele shoots a few inches high and wide of the Stoke goal.

Ian April 18, 20168:45 pm

We’re back into a scrappy period, I’m afraid. Arnautovic gets forward on the right hand side but his shot-cum-cross ends up being six of none and half a dozen of neither. (If he ever should write an autobiography, by the way, he should call it “Being Arnautovic”)

Big chance for Spurs, though. Alli plays a delicious through-ball for Eriksen, who thunders the ball against the crossbar from twelve or thirteen yards out. The crossbar looks fro here as if it bent back as though in a Wile E Coyote cartoon, or something.

Ian April 18, 20168:47 pm

Another half-chance for Spurs, as Harry Kane is released on the right, but Kane plays a slightly odd shot-cum-cross, as though in two minds over which to go with. Spurs are largely in charge, though.

Ian April 18, 20168:52 pm

Half-Time: Stoke City 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs created by far the best of the chances, but Stoke did have a brief period in the middle of the game when they made their visitors look a little frazzled around the edges. The goal was a magnificent one from Harry Kane, who continues to surprise and delight, and Spurs have in general been an absolute joy to watch. Stoke looked a little vacant for much of the half, as though already planning their summer trips to Dubai, but when they did go through a spell of asserting themselves, they looked capable of causing Spurs problems. With Erik Lemela hitting the crossbar when he should have scored and Harry Kane getting himself in a bit of a twist before shooting against Given’s shins, though, it’s a deserved lead. Back to the drawing board for Mark Hughes, while the Spurs go marching on, for now. Back in fifteen minutes.

Ian April 18, 20169:03 pm

Second half starts, then. I’ve been having a quick look around at what the rest of the world is saying about Spurs’ first half performance, and it’s pretty complimentary, on the whole. The biggest criticism offered that I’ve seen has been that Spurs should have killed the game off by now, but haven’t. Stoke City, according to the most common consensus that I’ve been able to find, have been abject. I think that such a lavish difference is being slightly hyperbolic. But they’ve not been great and the period during which they were in relative control didn’t last for too long.

Ian April 18, 20169:07 pm

A shot for Stoke, who’ve started this second half a little more brightly than they ended the first, with Afellay shooting tamely wide from distance. Spurs break forward immediately and have a call for a penalty turned away, though a second viewing indicates that he lost his footing and that the referee’s – lack of – call was correct.

Ian April 18, 20169:13 pm

Eriksen taps the ball into the path of Delle Alli, who shoots narrowly over the crossbar for Spurs. Stoke’s star didn’t feel as though it was in the ascendancy for very long.

Ian April 18, 20169:17 pm

Another chance for Spurs, as Lamela shots from a narrow angle – probably too narrow an angle – and sees his shot palmed wide by Given, who’s probably been Stoke’s best player, so far. The television commentators are talking about a shirt-grabbing incident at a corner and complaining that it should be given as a foul. The thing about that is that there is – and never, I don’t think, has been – any form of consistency regarding this, or shirt-tugging in general. This one looked like it might well have been, but where do you draw the line?

Ian April 18, 20169:24 pm

It’ll be difficult for Spurs’ nerves to slow until such a time that they score a second goal. Afellay dribbles a shot wide of the goal as I type that, and it feels incongruous. But Stoke have been stringing some possession again, though their finishing has been pretty dreadful, on the whole. Spurs would be grateful for a period of possession, I’d have thought.

Ian April 18, 20169:26 pm

And right on cue! Stoke City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Eriksen turns inside rather than out, catches the Stoke central defence leaden-footed, and chips the ball delightfully through to Delle Alli, who lifts the ball over Given and in. And all of this came after a little micro-burst from Stoke.

Ian April 18, 20169:28 pm

Delle Alli finds himself through on goal, rounds Shay Given, and… from a bit of an angle, hits the outside of the post with an open goal in front of him. Mauricio Pochettino’s face paints about ten thousand words.

And then…

Ian April 18, 20169:30 pm

Goal! Stoke City 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur – And Stoke have gone to pieces as Spurs sweep through the centre of defence, springing a feeble offside trap for Erik Lamela to pull the ball back for Harry Kane to stroke the ball into the corner of the goal.

Ian April 18, 20169:35 pm

A substitution for Stoke City sees Charlie Adam enter the game. A million hearts shudder at the thought.

Ian April 18, 20169:39 pm

Social media is enjoying Charlie Adam, very much, whose first significant input into the game was the apparent attempted kidnap of Erik Lamela’s scrotum.

Ian April 18, 20169:42 pm

Goal! Stoke City 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur. Another magnificent goal for Spurs! Rose’s ball inside finds Christian Eriksen, whose run down the left hand side has the feel of a training session about it. Eriksen crosses to the penalty spot, where Delle Alli volleys the ball with the outside of his foot, into the corner of the goal.

Ian April 18, 20169:45 pm

It may not be enough, of course. Five points is the gap and there are only four matches to play. Leicester City need to drop five points, and there are only four matches left. In other words, they have to drop points in two of their last four, and Spurs would have to win all of their last four. On nights like tonight, though, that almost doesn’t matter. This has been a masterclass from Spurs. They’re a triumph of engineering.

Ian April 18, 20169:54 pm

Full-Time: Stoke City 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur. Stoke’s already slight chance of making a Europa League place by natural causes is over, but their lethargy isn’t really the story here, this evening. As I mentioned earlier, even football like this might not be enough. Spurs are still likely to run out of track and reach the end of the line. In a sense, though, that could almost not matter on nights like these. Tottenham Hotspur put their dancing shoes on this evening, a performance of control, professionalism and panache that looks like the football of champions. Looking like the football of champions, however, will only get you so far. We’ll find out next weekend what the next chapter in this extraordinary season might be.

Thanks for stopping by.