Stoke stunt Tottenham’s push for the top spot | sports | Hindustan Times
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Stoke stunt Tottenham’s push for the top spot

sports Updated: Oct 25, 2009 01:50 IST

Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of piling pressure on their English Premier League rivals stalled as they slumped to a surprise 1-0 loss to Stoke City here on Saturday.

The north Londoners endured a frustrating afternoon at White Hart Lane, dominating a humdrum game for long spells but singularly failing to land a killer punch against well-drilled and disciplined opponents, who duly snatched a late goal on the counter-attack four minutes from time through Glenn Whelan.

Spurs began the afternoon knowing victory would take them level on points with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, while a five-goal winning margin would make them leaders outright.

True, the latter was a fanciful notion given their opponents are hardly renowned for being a soft touch, but for a club so starved of success, the mere possibility of being discussed as league leaders was giddying stuff.

But Stoke had their own agenda, not least extending a fine run that had seen them beaten just twice in their previous 10 games, and despite losing their goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to a virus 10 minutes before kick-off, they delivered the more sprightly start.

Just three minutes had elapsed when Matthew Etherington was set clear on the left of the Spurs penalty area.

His cross-shot zipped across the six-yard box but, before any Stoke player could apply a finishing touch, Jonathan Woodgate, making his first appearance of the season, flicked out his head to nod behind.

If that was a reminder of what Spurs have missed this term as Woodgate recovered from a serious injury, they were given another reminder of his notoriously frail body 10 minutes later when he hobbled off.

But Steve Simonsen, deputising for Sorensen, was still forced into two smart saves in the space of 10 minutes, first from Peter Crouch's dipping header and then Aaron Lennon's long-range piledriver.

However, Simonsen was not fighting a lone battle. He was left helpless in the 26th minute when Crouch, nodded back across goal. The ball seemed certain to drop into the far corner until James Beattie, appearing from nowhere, somehow hacked off the line.

When Niko Kranjcar smacked the left-hand post with a crisp low shot seconds later, Redknapp must have feared this was going to be one of those afternoons. At least Spurs refused to let their morale dip. They maintained their siege of the Stoke goal after the interval, with Robbie Keane enjoying a rare sight of goal in the 49th minute after being put through by Wilson Palacios.

But the Republic of Ireland striker's angled shot was well saved by Simonsen and Ryan Shawcross brilliantly denied Crouch on the rebound.

There was more chaos in the Stoke goalmouth on the hour when Lennon's cross from the right caused panic. After Crouch's header was blocked by Beattie — defending superbly yet again — Simonsen was just able to pounce on the loose ball before Kranjcar.