Friday 15 December 2017

Angry Pochettino wants consistency

Tottenham 2 Stoke City 2

Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scores his side’s first goal
Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scores his side’s first goal

Ben Findon

Just as visibly as the heavy equipment is being worked to clear the ground for Tottenham's fantastic new stadium next door, manager Mauricio Pochettino is struggling to overcome some problems of his own.

The cracks in his team widened alarmingly as Stoke, seemingly down and out, were allowed to fight back and draw.

Tottenham were two goals clear but, in a madcap final 12 minutes, Marko Arnautovic - from the penalty spot - and Mame Biram Diouf spun the afternoon on its head.

Pochettino had reshaped his strike force with the signing, hours before kick-off, of Cameroon forward Clinton N'Jie, a £10m import from Lyon.

First-half goals from Eric Dier and Nacer Chadli contributed to a buoyant mood until Stoke's late revival deflated all that Tottenham optimism.

Pochettino said: "It is very disappointing, but this is football. We must be more consistent. At 2-0 at home we need to manage it better."

Tottenham's cause was hardly helped by Harry Kane, who looked a shadow of last season's goal machine after missing a glorious chance to put his side three ahead. The player was substituted soon after.

"He was tired," said Pochettino. "He came later to the pre-season and you can see the consequence. At 65 minutes I think that is enough for him."

Mark Hughes, the Stoke manager, said: "Two-nil down was a big ask but we had a discussion at half-time. The players understood what I was looking for and they applied themselves.

"We didn't allow Tottenham as much easy possession. If we had 10 or 15 minutes, who knows, we might have won it."

The home side were quickly into their stride. Christian Eriksen tested Jack Butland twice in the first 10 minutes, first from outside the penalty area, then with a free-kick. Both times, the alert Stoke goalkeeper responded to push the ball to safety.

Tottenham's sprint start was quickly rewarded. Dier and Kyle Walker combined to set up Ryan Mason, whose drive ricocheted off Marc Muniesa for a corner. Dier rose at the near post to meet it and headed Tottenham into an 19th-minute lead.

There was little surprise when the eager home side doubled their advantage seconds before the interval. Ben Davies picked out Chadli, who let fly, his piledriver seemingly taking a slight deflection off Erik Pieters on its way past Butland.

How Stoke needed the inspiration of new signing Xherdan Shaqiri, the £12m purchase from Inter Milan, who was serving out a ban from his Serie A days in the stands.

There were few moments of concern for the home defence, though Diouf held his head in his hands after delivering a golden first-half opportunity straight at goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Kane should have added to Tottenham's lead, but he directed Chadli's cross straight at Butland in the 52nd minute.

And with Stoke sub Stephen Ireland having an immediate impact, Tottenham began to lose their poise and assurance.

Twelve minutes from time, Toby Alderweireld hauled down Ireland in the far corner of the penalty area and Arnautovic drilled home the spot-kick.

But Stoke had not finished. Five minutes later, Ireland crossed for Diouf to glance a header beyond Lloris. And it was back to the drawing board for Pochettino.


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