Saturday 25 November 2017

Spurs hail Gudjohnsen but the injuries mount

Etherington pen 64
Gudjohnsen 46, Kranjcar 77

Jon Culley

TOTTENHAM fans with an eye for an omen may like this one: the last time, before Saturday, that a team in their colours had won an away match against Stoke, some 25 years ago, they finished in the top four.

As a predictive guide to what might happen this season, it has no value, of course. What is beyond dispute, though, is that Tottenham are in the top four this morning – and like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, have won at the Britannia this season, where Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City could only draw.

If that were all it took, Harry Redknapp could put his feet up on his desk, light a big cigar and look forward to the Champions League. In reality, there is the FA Cup plus eight more Premier League matches to negotiate, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United back-to-back in April.

All this is against the background of an injury list that had Tottenham’s resources at full stretch even before a hamstring tweak forced Roman Pavlyuchenko to withdraw on Saturday. “I don’t know how bad it is,” said Redknapp, who has just lost Jermain Defoe with a torn hamstring. “We’ll have to see what the scan shows.”

There could not have been a better moment, then, for Eidur Gudjohnsen to restate his qualities as a player of international repute, and confirm to Redknapp that he was right to encourage the Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy not to let the Icelander slip from his grasp when he was on the point of signing for West Ham in January.

A Champions League winner with Barcelona only 10 months ago, the 31-year-old’s career seemed to be in decline following his summer move to Monaco but it seems likely he will now be a key figure for Tottenham. “He’s a really good footballer,” Redknapp said. “He played for Barcelona against us at Wembley in the pre-season just gone and he was fantastic.”

Gudjohnsen is on loan until the end of the season. Redknapp is keen to sign him permanently, particularly if he can make Saturday’s goal, 20 seconds into the second half, the first of many. Finished with exemplary technique after he had escaped Abdoulaye Faye’s attentions, the goal lifted a hitherto prosaic contest to another level.

There was a penalty equaliser from Stoke – who will make representations to the referees’ chief, Mike Riley, after Dean Whitehead became the third of their players this season to be sent off by the Wirral official Mike Dean – but Niko Kranjcar rewarded Tottenham’s resolve with the winner 13 minutes from the end, taking advantage of a Gudjohnsen dummy.

What happens next may be down to fate and the physios.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Collins; Delap, Whelan (Sanli, 84), Whitehead, Etherington; Fuller, Kitson (Sidibe, 84). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Lawrence, Pugh, Wilkinson, Moult.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar (Livermore, 90), Kaboul, Modric, Bale; Crouch, Pavlyuchenko (Gudjohnsen, 36). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Palacios, Dervite, Parrett, Townsend.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Stoke Fuller, Whitehead; Tottenham Hostpur Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar. Sent off: Stoke Whitehead (49).

Man of the match: Kranjcar.

Attendance: 27,575.

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