Gudjohnsen's cool head steadies Spurs
Published 21/03/2010 | 05:00
Never mind that Stoke played the second half with 10 men, Tottenham came through a tough test to claim their fourth league win in a row, particularly after Roman Pavlyuchenko's hamstring joined Jermain Defoe's on the sick list.
Harry Redknapp must have been rehearsing his "down to the bare bones" routine until, would you Adam and Eve it, Eidur Gudjohnsen came on and visibly lifted Spurs with his first goal for the club and a generally composed display.
"I'd like to keep Eidur here. He's a top, top player," Redknapp said of the striker he beat West Ham to sign on loan from Monaco. "He only began talking to West Ham because he thought we'd lost interest, but I always wanted him. Monaco's a place you go to retire, anyway. I think he knew he'd joined the wrong club. I'm going to need Eidur now, too. I'm not going to sit here complaining again, but you could make a terrific team out of all the players we have out injured or on loan. It's just unbelievable."
This was a game of one half, the first 45 minutes being completely forgettable. Gudjohnsen got the second off to a cracking start after 22 seconds, muscling Abdoulaye Faye out of the way to fasten on to Peter Crouch's excellent pass and complete a strong run with a finish that gave Thomas Sorensen no chance.
When Dean Whitehead was sent off three minutes later for a second foul on Luka Modric and a second yellow card, that should have been that, especially with Gudjohnsen looking likely to score another at any moment.
Yet, even with 10 men, Stoke came back and when Benoit Assou-Ekotto wrestled Dave Kitson to the ground to prevent him reaching Matthew Etherington's cross, the winger equalised from the penalty spot. Then Ricardo Fuller missed a glorious chance to put his side ahead when Danny Higginbotham mishit the ball to him, six yards out, and he wafted a hasty shot over the bar.
It was now up to Spurs to show what they could do in adversity -- and the answer was to score a stylish winner. Assou-Ekotto earned some atonement by overlapping down the left and sending in a low cross that Gudjohnsen dummied to allow Niko Kranjcar a chance, a difficult one that the Croatian managed to make look easy with a controlled drive from close to the penalty spot.
Even then, there was a half-chance for Mamady Sidibe at the end, but the substitute slipped at the crucial moment.
The first half was as grey and wet as the weather. Nothing happened to raise the pulse rate, unless you count Joe Jordan being spoken to by the referee for his outspoken objections to a series of early Stoke fouls on Gareth Bale.
In stoppage-time at the end, Stoke could have scored when Huerelho Gomes stranded himself in a tangle with Kitson and left Fuller an opportunity.
Unfortunately, the striker wanted it for himself. A quick ball to the left would have given Etherington a chance with the net empty, but Fuller never considered a pass and by the time he had worked space for his shot, the goalkeeper was back in his ground.
So while Spurs were value for their win, Stoke had their chances. "We probably created more clear-cut ones, so that was disappointing," Tony Pulis said. The Stoke manager also revealed he had tried to have the referee, Mike Dean, switched from the game.
"He's not been great for us this season and that's the third of our players he's sent off," Pulis explained. "I've no problem with the first booking, but I didn't think there was much in the second. I'm not sure it was really worth a second card and a sending-off.
"I watched the earlier game at Villa and when [Stilian] Petrov committed a worse foul when he was on a yellow, the referee just had a quiet word. That's the difference between referees. Some can apply a bit of common sense."
Pulis is normally more reasonable than ranting, and his old mate from years ago at Bournemouth was willing to back him up. "I did think it was a bit harsh," Redknapp said. "I'd have been disappointed if one of my lads had been sent off for that."