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Stuttering Spurs succumb to Stoke stalemate

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Tottenham Hotspur 1

(Van der Vaart – 90)

Stoke City 1

(Jerome – 75)

A late Rafael Van der Vaart header saw Tottenham Hotspur salvage a point after Cameron Jerome had opened the scoring with 15 minutes in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.

It was the first point the hosts had picked up out of a possible 12 in their last four Premier League games having gone through a poor run of form that leaves Spurs’ Champions League qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

Manager Harry Redknapp made four changes from the side that started against Bolton Wanderers with Brad Friedel, Younes Kaboul, Ledley King and Niko Kranjcar all drafted into the starting XI.

The Potters spurned two good chances in the early exchanges through Jerome and Peter Crouch, but after Van der Vaart forced Asmir Begovic into action, the home side were the dominant force.

In quick succession, Gareth Bale found Luka Modric twice in space in the box, but the Croatian dragged his efforts wide as Spurs looked to turn the screw.

Begovic was on hand to deny Louis Saha after the Frenchman found space to get his shot away from the edge of the box as Spurs ended the half on top.

Jermain Defoe was introduced at half-time at the expense of Kranjcar as Redknapp hoped to capitalise on the possession from the first half as Bale and Younes Kaboul came close to opening the scores.

Stoke were happy to soak up the pressure and attempt to hit the hosts on the break as the game looked to spring in to life.

Bale saw a deflected effort loop over Begovic but rebound off the bar before Stoke struck with only one of their two shots on target.

Jermaine Pennant swung a free-kick into the box from just inside the Spurs half, Robert Huth’s header rebounded off Ryan Shawcross and the ball fell nicely for Jerome who tucked away from close range.

Van der Vaart forced Begovic into action again before deep into the five minutes of injury time, the hosts netted the equaliser. Bale found space on the left and his sumptuous cross was met by the Dutchman who guided his header into the far corner.

What Redknapp had to say

“Stoke are never an easy team to beat,” Redknapp told Sky Sports. “They were solid and you know I said before the game, we had to be careful from set-plays and we got punished from a set-play.

“I really couldn’t see us scoring because we huffed and puffed and hit the bar with Gareth (Bale), but I was thankful in the end with that goal.

“I mean, we all want three points at home but maybe a point will be important at the end of the day but we just seemed to have lost our way a bit.

“We’re not playing with quite the same fluency that we were a few weeks ago. It’s difficult to put your finger on it really but we just don’t seem to be shifting the ball around like we did.

Ahead of the weekend encounter with Chelsea, he added: “One or two of us look a little bit off the pace, a little bit jaded but you know we go to Chelsea on Saturday for a big game, so we have to pick ourselves up again and we have to go there and try and get a result.

“They’ve got to be more patient. They get carried away with the crowd at times and started playing from back to front to quick. We’re a footballing team that plays and people have got to be patient. They can’t worry about the crowd being inpatient because we had lots of passes.

“You can’t lump the ball forward against Stoke because they have two centre-halves who are good in the air. We had to just be patient. With 30 minutes to go, we just panicked a bit and started playing too quick.”

Man of the match

Rafael Van der Vaart netting late on certainly gave the fans something to cheer about, but his constant attacking threat aided the front-men significantly. Always a pain in the side of the Stoke defence, it was likely that the Dutchman was going to break Asmir Begovic ahead of any of his Spurs team-mates.

Moment of the match

Rafael Van der Vaart’s header late on could prove significant in the hunt for a top four finish. With Arsenal winning 1-0 at Everton, and Chelsea now five points behind Spurs in the league, the point could greatly aid in the final push for a Champions League place.

Final thought

I want my Tottenham Hotspur 2011 team back. 

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