The Potters lived up to their reputation as the league's meanest defence, limiting the hosts to few chances as the two sides played out a dull draw at White Hart LaneTottenham and Stoke played out a dull, scoreless draw at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon, stalling Spurs’ pursuit of a place in the top four.
In a game of few chances, the home side struggled to break down the Potters’ organised, regimented defence, which has now kept nine clean sheets this season and conceded just 13 goals.
Andre Villas-Boas made three changes to the team that beat Swansea, with the fit again Gareth Bale restored to the left flank and Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker brought in to add height and strength at the back.
Charlie Adam was granted compassionate leave to mourn the sudden passing of his father, so Tony Pulis was forced to field Ryan Shotton in his place. Stoke were otherwise unchanged, with former Spurs forward Peter Crouch left on the bench.
The away side could have opened the scoring in the opening minute, as Kyle Walker carelessly gifted the ball to Kenwyne Jones on the edge of the box, but he blasted the ball over the bar.
Walker’s loose pass rather typified the opening exchanges, with Spurs stifled in their attempts to play attractive, possession football by Stoke’s relentless closing down.
The Spurs players frequently called foul play, with Mousa Dembele in particular wilting in the face of Stoke’s aggression and physicality.
Defending manfully, Pulis’ side also looked dangerous on the break; Jones’ deflected shot appeared to be rolling into the path of Matthew Etherington, but Sandro managed to clear the ball off the line.
The returning Bale grew into the match, subduing Geoff Cameron with his pace and delivery; a low, drilled cross was diverted marginally over the bar by Robert Huth before the Welshman picked out Emmanuel Adebayor at the far post, who headed over.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with both sides scrapping and battling for superiority. Bale, switching between flanks, was an invigorating presence once again, and rose to head just over at the back post.
Tottenham struggled to break down the visitors, devoid of a playmaker to unlock the defence. Limited to half-chances and optimistic shots from range, their Portuguese boss cut a forlorn and perplexed figure on the sidelines.
Stoke had the best chance of a dull and insipid second half, when Cameron found Shotton unmarked in the box, but Lloris caught his tame shot with ease. Shotton was dragged off by Pulis not long after.
Spurs continued to huff and puff to little avail, with Dembele’s deflected shot from 25-yards representing their best effort of normal time.
There was a late moment of controversy though, as Bale appeared to be bundled over by Jerome inside the box, but the referee waved the appeals away, a decision that riled the home support.
Cheered on by the White Hart Lane crowd, Spurs poured forward with greater abandon as the match entered injury time, and Gylfi Sigurdsson, on in place of Lennon, almost grabbed a winner but for a great save from Asmir Begovic.