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Tottenham 3-2 Stoke City: Peter Crouch ends bad week in style as brace settles entertaining encounter
Two Potters wonder goals do little to stop resurgent Spurs after relentless first half settles tie for home side with lanky striker and Luca Modric deciding matters
By Josh Clarke
Stunning strikes from both Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones could do little to stop Tottenham as they battled to a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane against Stoke.
In a first half that sent pulse rates through the roof, Peter Crouch proved the hero, making up for his midweek antics with a headed double.
The tall striker put his side up early on, before Luka Modric danced through and doubled the lead. Etherington gave the visitors a lifeline with a slaloming run that almost beggared belief, before Crouch made it 3-1, nodding home a great cross from Tom Huddlestone. Jones replied, finishing with aplomb after Gareth Bale gave the ball away, as the referee called time on a pulsating half.
The second half proved just as frantic, but no goals were added to the scoreline, allowing Spurs to pick up their first league win in four and maintain the pressure in the race for fourth spot in the Premier League.Despite the recent shockwaves that have reverberated around the club, Tottenham started by far the most assured at White Hart Lane, enjoying lengthy spells of possession that probed for an opener with regularity.
A goal was clearly on the cards after the home side’s buoyant start and when they forced a corner in the tenth minute the much-maligned Crouch popped up to redeem his midweek antics. Usually well-drilled on set pieces, Stoke were caught napping by a short corner and allowed Pavlyuchenko to cross for Crouch to stoop and head home.
Just moments later Spurs doubled their lead. Once again at the heart of things, Pavlyuchenko dropped off and slipped the ball into Modric’s path. The Croatian ghosted through a few flimsy challenges and casually slided the ball under Begovic.
Stoke seemed to be able to find no reply to wave after wave of Tottenham attacks, with their typically direct style of play offering just temporary lapses of relief until Etherington produced a piece of magic. Winning the ball in a seemingly innocuous place in his own half, the winger nutmegged Michael Dawson, slipped inside and outmuscled Huddlestone before nonchalantly sliding it under Heurelho Gomes and just inside the far post.
That goal out of nowhere knocked the wind out of the sails of the hosts for all of 10 minutes, before Crouch underlined the reason for his inclusion. Some expansive build-up play culminated in a delightful bending ball in from the right by Huddlestone. With the ball put on a plate for him, Crouch duly obliged and headed beyond Begovic in predatory fashion.
Almost unbelievably, Stoke responded in a totally unexpected manner that was similar to their first goal. Bale was caught in possession by Andy Wilkinson, with the ball dropping to Kenwyne Jones deep inside the Spurs half. The striker surged past Younes Kaboul, then unleashed an unstoppable effort with his left foot that flew into the top corner.
As half-time drew close Van der Vaart was again at the hub of things, laying on a great effort for Pavlyuchenko, before Ryan Shawcross came across to block with the goal gaping. The resulting corner came to nothing, allowing the referee to call time on a first half of non-stop entertainment.
Welsh flyer | Bale goes tumbling under pressure from Pennant
The game continued after the break in the same frantic manner that characterised the first half. Pavylunchenko slammed one into the side-netting from a narrow angle before Stoke stormed up the other end and should have definitely scored themselves.
Jones burst through to the byline and cut back, leaving the goal gaping for Jonathan Walters. Gomes managed to slightly alter the path of the cross but just a couple of yards out, Walters somehow turned it on to the post, drawing audible gasps of relief at White Hart Lane.
Time on the ball became a premium as the play raced from end to end. Tottenham remained the stronger of the sides, with Bale drawing a cynical foul from Wilkinson when it seemed that the Welshman had nipped through on goal.
As the game progressed past the hour mark, the Spurs fans thought they had things wrapped up when the ball somehow dropped in to the net after a corner kick. The referee was quick to blow up though and on closer inspection, Kaboul had brutally clattered into Begovic, effectively forcing the keeper over his own line.
As Tottenham continued to search for the goal that would put the goal of out reach, Pavlyuchenko tried a speculative effort from range that stung Begovic's palms. To stop the game slipping out his team's grasp, Tony Pulis made a triple change, bringing on Salif Diao, Ricardo Fuller and Dean Whitehead.
Stoke almost snatched an equaliser late on, with Gomes tipping Jones' stinging drive over the bar, but Spurs held on to secure a much needed league victory.
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