|DATE||Sunday 11th December 2011|
Having qualified for the knock-out stages of the Europa League, Stoke City have finally found a win after one of their mid-week matches and the 1-0 win in the drab game at Everton shows that they are able of winning at places you might not expect.
Not that you wouldn't expect them to win at the Britannia, where they are backed by a small but noisy following. And they are assisted by a drop in temperatures to below the national average by the whipping wind in the Potteries area.
But more than that, they have changed their style a little. How little remains to be seen, as the big striker Peter Crouch appears ideally suited to the former route one tactics, but now he is deployed as a more regular target man. With a couple of wingers and some industrious midfielders, Stoke have transmogrified into a half decent team on their day, but they still appear to want to play more football than their players' abilities sometimes allow.
There is still a reliance on set-pieces with Delap's long throws and corners from Pennant and Etherington, meaning that our central defenders and Adebayor will need to be alert, but the new style often leaves them open to the counter-attack.
At the back, Begovic hasn't been quite the keeper they thought he might be when they stole him from Tottenham on transfer deadline day, with Sorensen returning between the sticks. And the defence as a whole have been a bit leaky, with five conceded at Bolton and four at Sunderland, which is a surprise, as they are known for being strong at the back.
It is the lack of goals up front that are costing the Potters points, with 13 goals in 14 games showing that their defence needs to be tighter if they are to pick up points.
With a collection of ex-Spurs in their ranks - Woodgate, Palacios and Crouch - there will be an added incentive to do well and it would not surprise me if Pulis did not include them all to add an edge to his side's play.
While places like Stoke and Bolton were places where Spurs just paid a visit, these days, things are much different and the presence of Scott Parker means that we have a steel in the midfield, which was once missing in the recent past. The set-up away from home will probably be Adebayor and van der Vaart, with Bale and Lennon supporting. The Spurs defence has been sound this season and will need to stand up to the physical test they will be getting on Sunday. If they can do that, then I think they will come back rewarded.
|PREDICTION||Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.|
STOKE CITY TEAM NEWS :
Mamady Sidibe will miss the game with a knee injury, while keeper Thomas Sorensen might be ruled out with concussion, but looks as though he would be ready to play again. Defender Andy Wilkinson faces a late fitness test on his back, while both Rory Delap and Jermaine Pennant look like over-coming their knocks to play on Sunday.
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
A groin injury rules out Giovani dos Santos and Danny Rose's ankle injury keeps him out of the squad for selection. Also sidelined are Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Michael Dawson (Achilles). Ledley King got a knock in training, Jermain Defoe has a hamstring problem and Gareth Bale took a knock on his foot against Bolton Wanderers last week, but at least Niko Kranjcar is back in training again following his thigh injury.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
Stoke City 2 (2)
Sunday 11th December 2011
Venue : Britannia Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur 1 (0)
Kick off 16:00
|Adebayor (p) 62|
Woodgate (foul) 30
Wilson (time wasting) 81
Kaboul (dissent) 67
Parker (foul) 92
|Crowd : 27,529||Weather : Wet before the game, very cold|
|Referee : Chris Foy (St. Helens)||Assistant Referees : S. Ledger; R. Pollock|
|Fourth Official : Andre Marriner||-|
|- kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.|
|Stoke City :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
(24 Delap 84)
11 van der Vaart (17 dos Santos 88)
|Manager : Tony Pulis||Manager : Harry Redknapp|
|Sponsor : Britannia||Shirt sponsor : Aurasma|
|Kit Supplier : adidas||Kit Supplier : Puma|
Spurs left the Potteries with their unbeaten run shattered and they will be frustrated that was the case. While it is true to say that the quick start Stoke City made to the game had Tottenham on the back foot, they made enough chances to win a few games, but without the benefit of any doubt from referee Chris Foy, the effort they put in was without any reward. Two Matthew Etherington goals put City 2-0 up at the break and although a Emmanuel Adebayor penalty put Spurs back in the game, a good goal disallowed for offside, three penalty shouts ignored and a dismissal of Younes Kaboul that left the majority of Spurs supporters bemused ensured that Foy was the centre of attention.
It is performances like this that need to be scrutinised otherwise, the same old routine will be followed with no comment from the match official for his inept performance and nothing will change. When a player sees the ball taken off his toe for a corner and then a goal kick is given (on more than one occasion), you wonder how the referee can cope with the big decisions.
Harry Redknapp chose Rafael van der Vaart over Jermaine Defoe and William Galls came in for the injured Ledley King. With the side looking quite solid, the hope was that VDV would float around behind Adebayor and pull defenders out of position.
Knowing the home team's liking for a physical approach, it was all about people doing their jobs.
The game started at break-neck pace and Stoke put Tottenham under immediate pressure. Within a minute a ball was cleared out of the Tottenham box from a long throw and Matthew Etherington ran onto the ball on the edge of the area to smack a volley low at goal. Luckily, Brad Friedel was alert to it and got down to it to keep it out, but the ball spun up only for a Stoke player to hit the side netting under pressure. 38 seconds gone and the warning was there that this would set the tone for the coming 90+ minutes ahead.
The Stoke side kept up the fast pace and Ryan Shotton got past Assou-Ekotto n their right and flashed a shot across goal, while Etherington hit one straight at Friedel. And it was the former Spurs man who was on the end of a move to give his side the lead in the 13th minute. A high ball into the box had deflected off Benny, with Crouch moving to it first and taking the ball away to the right of the goal, he managed to get past Gallas and as Friedel came to meet him, turned the ball back from right on the dead ball line, through the keeper's legs, to the middle of the six yard box, where Etherington ran in to slot home from a couple of yards out. it was an untidy goal and one that was a result of Spurs not starting the game at the right tempo.
You could see from the pitch markings that the home club had shortened and narrowed the pitch to give less space to play in. Tactics that you would normally have associated with the likes of Cambridge United under John Beck or Wimbledon under the same manager. It allowed the pressing game to have a maximum effect in preventing Tottenham getting their passing game going and even Luka Modric was giving the ball away under such intense closing down. None of it is against the laws of the game, but it typifies the gamesmanship that Pulis' side displays.
They take forever over every throw in and goal kick. They complain and dispute decisions and their style rubs off on their crowd, who, in my opinion, are the most ignorant in the Premier League. Noisy they may well be ... but they are as loud as they are unknowledgeable about the game. Every crowd tends to be a little biased, but the Stokies are so passionate, they cannot see the blatantly obvious.
The team's style of play was not particularly well handled by the Spurs team in the first half. it took 24 minutes before we had a shot on target and even then it was a pretty weak effort from van der Vaart from outside the area. But then Tottenham began to have more of the ball and keep it in the Stoke half, getting Bale and Lennon in the game, with the little man being brought down by another ex-Spur - Jonathan Woodgate - to bring a yellow card for the defender. On the half hour, Luka Modric got the ball 20 yards out after an intricate phase of passing and struck a low skidding shot that Sorensen had to push aside, as it looked it might skip over him.
A foul by Woodgate on Parker (who was then booed relentlessly by the home fans) on the edge of the area was let go, as Spurs had possession, but it came to nothing and left us with a man out of the game. With a caution just a few minutes earlier, it was interesting that Foy did not pursue this further ... especially with what was to come. However, three minutes before the break, a little against the run of play, a long throw (surprise, surprise) was flicked on and bobbled about the box until Etherington met it and scuffed it by kicking it into the ground, with the bounce confounding Friedel and going into the net.
It was the last thing Spurs needed, as turning round at 0-1 was perhaps salvageable. As it was, Harry had to make changes and Assou-Ekotto went off to be replaced by Sebastien Bassong and Aaron Lennon left the play with Defoe coming on and the team setting out in a more conventional 3-5-2 formation. This gave Spurs the option of attacking on the flanks through Bale and Walker, while the presence of Defoe would help out Adebayor up front. van der Vaart had been getting frustrated in the first half and this formation would allow him more scope to play in midfield with more support around him.
Tottenham created plenty of openings in the second half, but were not able to take them thanks to a combination of poor finishing and poor decision making by the officials. Bassong had a header from a corner that he put over the top, Luka Modric struck a rising shot that Sorensen did well to push wide, then whipping in a cross, Bale forced Shawcross into a full length dive to head away at the near post. Then when Walker put in a pacy cross from the other flank, it missed the played in the middle and struck Woodgate on the chest and unknowingly, he put the ball inches wide of the far post.
From a corner, Spurs built the play up the left side with Modric taking it short and cutting into the box, where he fooled Whelan with a step-over and the Stoke midfielder kicked him on the shin as he shimmied past. For once, Foy got it right, but being on top of the incident, he could do little else than point to the penalty spot. Adebayor stepped up and having missed his last kick against West Bromwich Albion, he kept his cool and sent Sorensen right as his kick went to the keeper's left to make it 1-2.
At this stage, Spurs were pressing forward, with Stoke struggling to keep up. Parker hit a shot towards the top corner and Sorensen again dived to push the ball wide, with Adebayor curling a shot from the left side of the box narrowly wide of the far post soon after. When the next corner came in, Younes Kaboul was almost left with a bloody stump as Shawcross hauled him down by his arm, with both of his own. How the referee or linesman did not see it, I couldn't believe and nor could the Spurs defender, who got booked following advice for the ref from fourth official Andre Marriner.
Sorensen had to dive low to his left to keep out another daisy-cutter from Modric and then a scramble in the box saw Defoe knocked over and Kaboul have a shot from the right that was cleared on the line by Shawcross' elbow. Again, it was another Specsavers moment for the match officials. Defoe powered in a drive that might have hit a Stoke defender on the arm, although that one might have been harsh, but it was followed by a fine run and low ball across the face of goal by Bale, that Adebayor was inches away from making contact with. When Adebayor did get a decent contact on the ball, he managed to put it past Sorensen, after the ball had been played back into the box following a clearance. However, the linesman joined his senior official in making a grave error, as the Togo striker was onside when the ball came in. Another shocking decision.
Having started halfway through the first half, it was a little late in the day for Foy to start booking Stoke players for time-wasting, when he showed Wilson the yellow card in the 81st minute, especially as he was not one of the prime offenders. When the throw was taken the ball was cleared, but Stoke broke away and Walters ran the ball towards the dead ball line at the side of the penalty area and Kaboul tackled him to give away a free kick. That seemed fair, but then Foy strode up to produce another yellow and a red card. it was amazing considering what sort of tackles had gone unpunished previously.
It left Spurs a man short for the last eight minutes plus five of added time. That made it difficult, but twice in a minute from corners on the Tottenham left, Ryan Shawcross could have added to the lead, with near post headers. Firstly, Friedel did very well to turn his powerful header over the bar, then from the next corner the Stoke defender hit the crossbar. Palacios and Delap came on for Stoke to shore up their side and Giovani cam eon late for Tottenham, but the game fizzled out a bit, as Stoke tried to eat up time by playing the ball around and hitting the corners.
Frustratingly, these sort of opposition displays were what we were used to a few years ago from Stoke and obviously, they have not shed that reputation for stolid, dour play. Their goals were well taken if not well created and while worth their lead, Tottenham were worth a point. But they didn't get it, so we move on to the match in Ireland in the week, with the youngsters set to get another airing, while the home game on Sunday against Sunderland will see new boss Martin O'Neill at the helm.
Will we expect much more of the same ?.
Don't bet against it.
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|What you thought|
|Steve Mason||What a joke the
referee was. Not just missing fouls in the box along with
handballs galore, but not even seeing blatant corners when he saw
one. Amazingly he saw something wrong with Younes, as he got
his red card out quick enough, when other tackles, such as one by
Shawcross through the back of Adebayor was worthy of a red card on
Stoke deserved their lead and then we went to sleep and gifted them a second, with Kaboul possibly not aware of his position and those around him for those goals, but watching the totally unbiased Peter Reid (former Stoke coach) on Sky saying that Luka took a dive for the penalty was outrageous. Maybe the FA might like to look at a disrepute charge, so that when some sucker club take him on as their manager, he has to serve a ban.
There were a huge number of incidents going on for Chris Fool to spot, but he didn't. Leaving their foot in, hitting players who had won headers after the ball had gone, using their arms to block people off. Surprisingly, the official let play go on when Stoke committed such offences, but when Spurs made a minor foul, it was always blown up for.
All we ask for is consistency from referees and we know that they make mistakes, but why was this one so inconsistent and why did he make all his mistakes all in one match ?
|Barry Levington||What gets me about
Foy's refereeing is how he saw and didn't see things the same way in
the Stoke game.
I presume that like Shawcross' elbow off the line, he and his assistants must have missed Gareth Bale beating the ball away with his fist in frustration after not getting a corner decision that should have gone his way, while he clearly had a front seat view of Whelan's dissent late in the game when he had a foul awarded against him.
With fouls like Kaboul's that earned him a second yellow, we must fear for the future of the game, as tackles like that in this game alone would probably have resulted in seventeen players being booked at the very least.
Foy had a bad day. It can happen to anyone, but the lack of explanation that is forthcoming from the refereeing profession makes them seem aloof and beyond reproach.
Without any idea of why referees make the decisions they do, the rift between them and managers and players and fans will continue to grow and the FA and Premier League will have to accept that the criticism they receive will go on unabated until something changes.
|Other scores during this week :|
|Bolton Wanderers||1||Aston Villa||2||Saturday|
|Liverpool||1||Queens Park Rangers||0||Saturday|
|Manchester United||4||Wolverhampton Wanderers||1||Saturday|
|Norwich City||4||Newcastle United||2||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Wigan Athletic||2||Saturday|
|13||Queens Park Rangers||15||4||4||7||15||26||16||-11|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||4||3||8||14||23||15||-9|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the weekend : 4th
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