Tottenham 1-1 Stoke City: Van der Vaart nets stoppage time equalizer but home draw dents Spurs' top-four hopes
A dramatic late goal from the Dutchman seals a point for Harry Redknapp's side, but the north London club has lost yet more ground in its bid for the Champions League places.
By Joe Doyle
Harry Redknapp's side controlled the game for long periods, but didn't do enough to trouble Asmir Begovic for much of the game due to some stout defending from Tony Pulis' back line.
Jerome's goal was typically Stoke - a whipped free kick form range with the imposing defense wreaking havoc in the opposition area, leaving the striker to prod home from close range.
Gareth Bale came close for the home team, rattling the crossbar with an effort from range less than a minute before the Stoke goal, but this was the only occasion the Potters' goalkeeper really looked troubled.
But Van der Vaart was on hand to powerfully head home deep into stoppage time from Bale's cross and rescue a point.
Redknapp named a strong team for the visit of the Potters, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon the only real absentees from the first XI.
Pulis also went with an attacking formation, selecting a front-three of Jonathan Walters, Peter Crouch and Jerome.
Jerome was the first player to come close, having two shots in the space of two minutes – one a volley that flashed wide, and another after Ledley King’s failed clearance that the striker skied over the bar.
The home support weren’t exactly getting behind the team in the opening 10 minutes as Stoke dominated proceedings, with a number of Spurs players misplacing passes to the opposition.
Van der Vaart was the first to really test Begovic with a low drive from the edge of the box, but the keeper was equal to it.
Minutes later, Luka Modric went close, shooting across goal, but it went just wide of the right post.
Stoke countered quickly, but Peter Crouch dragged his effort wide of the far post as the game began to open up a bit.
Modric had an almost carbon copy of his earlier shot just after 20 minutes, again flying wide, but this time courtesy of a deflection.
From the resulting corner, Spurs were claiming handball as Younes Kaboul’s shot was blocked by Jon Walters, but the striker went down winded after the ball struck him in his midriff.
Salif Diao was forced off early with what looked like a muscle strain, replaced by Glenn Whelan just before the half hour mark.
Spurs were forcing plenty of the play in the first half, but not really taking advantage of their large share of possession.
While Begovic did have to make two saves, he wasn’t really troubled. Redknapp’s side was struggling to find any creativity in the final third, and Stoke was defending solidly while looking for a chance of its own on the counterattack.
Redknapp changed things at halftime, bringing on Jermain Defoe for the ineffectual Niko Krancjar. Pulis had his own change to make 10 minutes after the break as Wilson Palacios was withdrawn for Dean Whitehead, with the former Spurs man being sacrificed because of an earlier yellow card.
The second half was similar in style to the first, with Spurs looking to attack but not making any dangerous forays towards Begovic’s goal.
Stoke was doing well to restrict the home side mainly to shots from distance, and getting blocks on the majority of them.
That was, until Bale rattled the crossbar from 25 yards. The winger was allowed to shift onto his left foot in a central position before looping an effort over Begovic, only to see the ball rebound off the woodwork.
Spurs’ sorrow at seeing that effort clatter off the bar was compounded less than a minute later, as the visitors drew a free kick on the left wing.
Jermaine Pennant whipped in a great cross, and as Robert Huth got a header in on goal, the ball deflected into the path of Jerome who was in the right place at the right time to poke the home from a little over a yard out.
The frustrations were clear to see for the Tottenham players, with Van der Vaart picking up a booking for slamming the ball into the advertising boards after giving away a foul.
The Dutch attacker had an opportunity to get his team back into it shortly after, but fluffed his lines and the ball popped straight into the arms of Begovic.
Bale came close again in the second of five minutes' added time, stinging the palms of Begovic with a drive from range that Stoke managed to clear.
But Spurs' perseverance paid off, with Van der Vaart grabbing an injury time equalizer, heading home from Bale's cross to seal a point for the hosts.
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