Wednesday 29 January 2020

Van der Vaart leveller fails to lift Tottenham spirits

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 1

Rafael van der Vaart. Photo: Getty Images
Rafael van der Vaart. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

In the circumstances, it might seem harsh to chastise Tottenham for such a startlingly insipid performance. This, after all, is a club still understandably raw from the emotional trauma of Fabrice Muamba's collapse at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Yet the frustration on the face of Harry Redknapp and the simmering anger of the crowd, even after Rafael van der Vaart's added-time equaliser, told a wider story. Spurs have now won just four points from a possible 15 since Fabio Capello resigned as England manager and Redknapp was widely anointed his natural heir.

They have also now slipped out of the Premier League's top three for the first time since November and, most worryingly, are suddenly devoid of their swagger.

Tottenham, though, were clearly subdued in the opening minutes. Peter Crouch, their former striker, was the predictable focal point for Stoke's attacks and, while the midfield was often tightly packed into a congested bank of five, both Jon Walters and Cameron Jerome were breaking forward in support.

The crowd's demand for Jermain Defoe was answered at half-time, with Niko Kranjcar sacrificed as Van der Vaart moved to the right and Tottenham resumed in a more offensive 4-4-2 formation.

The longer Stoke held out, though, the more adventurous they became.

Jermaine Pennant's crossing became an increasing threat and, after 75 minutes, his precise free-kick was met by Robert Huth, who cleverly diverted the ball for Jerome to direct his finish past Brad Friedel.

Spurs appeared out of ideas but, with the game into its third minute of added-time, Gareth Bale provided a wonderful cross that was headed beyond Asmir Begovic by Van der Vaart. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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