English Premiership

Stoke on the rise, Spurs slump

2014-11-09 18:30
Mauricio Pochettino (AFP)

London - The problems confronting Mauricio Pochettino continued to mount after the Tottenham Hotspur manager watched his side slump to a 2-1 home defeat by Stoke City in the Premier League on Sunday.

First-half goals from Bojan Krkic and Jonathan Walters provided Stoke with the cushion to withstand a late Spurs rally triggered by Nacer Chadli's 77th-minute reply before the home side was reduced to ten men following Kyle Naughton's dismissal five minutes from time at White Hart Lane.

A fourth home league defeat of the season left Tottenham in 12th position, five places and six points worse off than at the same stage when Andre Villas-Boas was overseeing the final weeks of his reign before being dismissed in mid-December.

While Pochettino was forced to reflect on another disappointment, Stoke manager Mark Hughes could draw satisfaction from a win that moved his side into the top half of the table.

Pochettino has made no attempt to disguise his frustration at his side's recent performances and his team selection made it clear the Argentinian manager's patience was wearing thin.

Youngsters Harry Kane and Andros Townsend retained their starting spots after their impressive displays in an otherwise underwhelming Europa League win away to Asteras Tripolis in midweek.

The Tottenham bench, meanwhile, was a roll-call of the club's higher profile players including Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele.

- Kane start -

The clamour for Kane, 21, to be handed a first Premier League start of the season has increased steadily while the striker has excelled in the cup competitions during a run that had brought eight goals in his last eight appearances.

With Adebayor desperately out of form -- the Togo striker has scored just twice this season -- Pochettino gave Kane his chance and the forward almost provided an immediate return for his manager.

The match was barely three minutes old when Chadli whipped in a right-wing cross towards the far post, where Kane should have done better than head directly at Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

It was the kind of positive opening Pochettino was looking for but home optimism quickly disappeared when the Spurs defence evaporated in front of Krkic, allowing the Spain international to give Stoke a sixth-minute lead.

Collecting a pass on the halfway line, the former Barcelona man advanced unchallenged until he was 20 yards out before drilling a low shot beyond Spurs and France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

It was the worst possible start for a side struggling for confidence and, tellingly, north London club Tottenham looked incapable of mustering a response.

Ryan Mason found the side-netting with a long-range shot and Christian Eriksen sent a free-kick narrowly over but Begovic remained largely untroubled.

It was a different story at the other end, however, with Stoke again exploiting Tottenham's glaring defensive weaknesses to add a second goal in the 33rd minute.

Once again the visitors found a way through the home back-line with ease, this time when Danny Rose's clearance was immediately returned to Mame Biram Diouf, who found space behind Rose and crossed for Walters to turn home from 10 yards out.

Pochettino's men looked ragged while Stoke were able to retain control of the game without having to extend themselves.

The Spurs manager reacted by introducing Lamela and Dembele at half-time in place of the ineffective Townsend and Eriksen but the changes made little difference to the balance of the contest.

And when Begovic produced an outstanding full length save to repel Lamela's 76th minute free-kick, home hopes of a comeback appeared to have vanished.

But Chadli breathed fresh life into Spurs when he met Rose's left-wing cross with a fine volley to beat Begovic from a tight angle a minute later.

Spurs were finally building some momentum but their efforts were undermined when Naughton was sent off after tripping Victor Moses as the Stoke winger broke clear on Lloris's goal.


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