Tottenham 1-1 Stoke City: Van der Vaart nets stoppage-time equaliser but home draw further 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 have lost yet more ground in their bid for the Champions League places
By Joe Doyle
Tottenham gave up even more ground in their chase for a top four place in the Premier League as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke City, but it could have been worse for the hosts, as Rafael van der Vaart equalised in the third minute of injury time.
Harry Redknapp's side controlled the game for long periods, but did not do enough to trouble Asmir Begovic for much of the game due to some stout defending from Tony Pulis' back line.
Cameron Jerome gave his side the lead in typical Stoke style - a whipped free-kick from range was pounced upon by their imposing defence with Robert Huth flicking the ball on for the striker to prod home from a yard out.
Gareth Bale came close for the hosts, rattling the crossbar with an effort from 30 yards, less than a minute before the Stoke goal, but Van der Vaart was on hand to powerfully head home the Welshman’s cross deep into stoppage time and rescue a point.
Redknapp named a strong team for the visit of the Potters, with the injured Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon the only regular fixtures absent 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 drive sent over the bar after Ledley King’s failed clearance.
As Stoke dominated proceedings, the home support were quick to voice their frustration with a number of Spurs players misplacing passes to the opposition.
Van der Vaart was the first to 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 only to see it skim inches wide of the right-hand post.
Salif Diao was forced off early with a muscle strain, replaced by Glenn Whelan after just 30 minutes.
Spurs were struggling to find any creativity in the final third, and Stoke were defending solidly while looking for a chance of their own on the counterattack.
Redknapp changed things at half-time, bringing on Jermain Defoe for the ineffectual Niko Krancjar.
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 were doing well to restrict the hosts to shots from distance, and getting blocks on the majority of them.
That was, until Bale rattled the crossbar from 30 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.
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 ball 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.
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 equaliser, heading home across Begovic, from Bale's cross, to seal a point for the hosts.
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