Spurs unable to break down stubborn Stoke
Tottenham 0-0 Stoke
STOKE lived up to their billing as one of the best defensive units around as they put in a stubborn display to deny Tottenham victory at White Hart Lane.
Spurs could have gone third in the Barclays Premier League with a win, but the visitors proved too hard to break down thanks to a predictably tough display from Tony Pulis' side.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas and his assistant Steffen Freund regularly complained at the physicality of the Potters, who had four players booked during the match.
But the draw was more to do with the imperious performances of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth than any perceived bully-boy tactics.
Villas-Boas had described the Potters defence as one of the best in Europe on Thursday and his assessment proved correct as the strong duo kept Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe quiet for almost the entire match.
Gareth Bale, returning to the Tottenham side after his hamstring injury, went close with a second-half header, as did Gylfi Sigurdsson in added-time, but for the most part Spurs were restricted to long shots.
Stoke, who have kept nine clean sheets this season, have now gone eight matches unbeaten for the first time since the Premier League began.
Tottenham, meanwhile, head to Aston Villa on Boxing Day in fifth position after rivals Arsenal and Everton both won their respective matches, and Villas-Boas will no doubt see this as a missed opportunity to start the festive period with a bang.
Stoke made a bright start, stifling the home side in the first five minutes amid a quiet atmosphere inside White Hart Lane.
Just 45 seconds had gone before Kyle Walker fed a hospital pass straight in to the path of Kenwyne Jones, but he lost his balance and could only shoot over.
Spurs sought to match Stoke's physicality in midfield with a couple of hefty tackles early on, but Sandro went too far five minutes in when he earned a booking for a dangerous studs up challenge on Glenn Whelan.
Stoke had all the early play, but Hugo Lloris remained untested in the Spurs goal.
Bale fired in a low cross, but the imperious Huth hooked the ball clear before Defoe could get to the ball.
Stoke soon hit back through Steven N'Zonzi, who fed Jones on the counter-attack. The striker beat Lloris, but Sandro scrambled back to clear off the line.
Back up the other end Jan Vertonghen used some silky skills to beat three Stoke players and cross for Defoe, but the ball just evaded the diminutive striker.
Vertonghen was booked for a late tackle on Whelan and was back in the thick of the action moments later with a deflected shot that flew in to Asmir Begovic's hands.
Bale put in one of his trademark lung-busting runs and beat his marker, but Shawcross cleared before Defoe could tap in.
The Welshman charged at the Stoke defence 60 seconds later and this time found his target at the back post, but Adebayor could only head over.
Spurs started to take control of the match and went close to breaking the deadlock just before the break through Mousa Dembele, who fired half a yard over the bar.
The physical nature of the game showed no sign of relenting after the re-start.
Just over 30 seconds of the second half had elapsed before Andy Wilkinson saw yellow a foul on Aaron Lennon.
Pulis fumed at Bale just before the hour when he went to ground in an attempt to win a free-kick just outside the box.
Spurs had their best chance of the game so far when Bale leapt to meet Lennon's cross, but he could only head over.
Stoke hit back on the break the following minute through Geoff Cameron, who sprinted down the left to found Ryan Shotton, but his attempt on goal was weak.
Shotton paid the price for the miss as he was withdrawn for Dean Whitehead, who saw yellow for tangling with Vertonghen barely a minute after he entered the pitch.
Bale and substitute Sigurdsson drove at the Stoke defence, but they had to shoot from distance as the away side looked to close out the game.
Cameron and N'Zonzi entered the book in the final 15 minutes as the game threatened to boil over.
Spurs threw everything at the visitors, but they could not find a way through.
Bale went down in the box, but Lee Mason waved play on. Seconds in to the four minutes of added time Sigurdsson had a chance to win it, but Begovic pulled off a world-class save and the hosts had to settled for a point.