Life can pass by without anything much out of the ordinary occurring for weeks, sometimes months. Then suddenly, everything seems to happen all at once. Life becomes a jangled mess as you try to cope with a host of things in rapid succession.
The same thing can happen in a football match. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was having an unremarkable game, until a crazy period in the second half when he suddenly became involved in everything. First he’s pushing and shoving Vedran Corluka, then he’s pushing and shoving Stoke players over in the box, before making up for his sins in the best possible way, by setting up the winning goal.
BAE was at the eye of the storm, but the truth was that this was a crazy whirlwind of a game all round. Picking up three points away at Stoke was a massive achievement, especially in the context of Villa and Liverpool’s results, yet we could have quite easily lost the game having held a 1-0 lead over ten men.
That 1-0 lead came early in the second half, as Eidur Gudjohnsen scored his first goal for the club. We hadn’t played particularly well in the first half and our chances of winning the game didn’t look to be improved by the injury to Roman Pavlyuchenko, that saw Gudjohnsen replace him.
I’ve doubted the chances of Crouch and Gudjohnsen being an effective partnership, but they combined perfectly for our first goal. Crouch dropped deep and played the ball over the shoulder of the Stoke defender for Gudjohnsen to run on to. He showed real strength and composure to hold off the challenge and blast the ball into the net with his left foot.
With a couple of minutes Dean Whitehead had been sent off for his second bookable offence and Stoke were down to ten men, but anyone who thought that it would be all plain sailing from there, has clearly never seen Tottenham play.
Midway through the second half BAE had the aforementioned rush of blood to his head and gave away a penalty that was converted by Etherington. You would assume this would signal Spurs taking the game by the scruff of the neck and going in search of a winner, but it was Stoke who would soon come close to taking the lead.
Crouch’s attempted defensive header only succeeded in creating chaos within our box and the ball found it’s way to the waiting Ricardo Fuller, who had the simple task to put Stoke ahead. Instead he somehow managed to balloon the ball over the bar. Ultimately this lack of reliability in front of goal is Stoke’s problem. If Darren Bent had fancied signing for them instead of slagging off Daniel Levy on Twitter, then Stoke would be a real force.
Slowly we regained composure and began to create some pressure. Eventually it paid off when Gudjohnsen cleverly sidestepped Ekotto’s pull back, allowing the oncoming Niko Kranjcar to thump the ball home. It was a lovely goal and evoked the sort of strike familiar to anyone that used to read the adventures of Roy Race.
Holding on for a 2-1 lead at Stoke is not easy, even if they are short of a player. Their constant aerial bombardments are wearing over the course of a match and it only takes a slight lack of concentration for them to take advantage. It’s difficult to even just retain possession and try to run down the clock, because their style necessitates the sort of scrambled clearances and looping defensive headers that prevents anyone getting the ball down on the deck.
Stoke were to have one last gasp chance to equalise again, when Bassong made a misjudgment, allowing Sidibe in on goal. Thankfully he choose to fall over rather than score a sickening leveller.
Overall I thought we coped pretty well with Delap’s Exocet throw-ins. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only person choking when I heard that Kaboul would be playing instead of Palacios, but it gave us another man who could compete in our box.
Harry’s decision was a gamble, but it paid off, with Spurs winning and Palacios being available and fresh for the game against Fulham. Trouble is, Fulham also had one eye on Wednesday’s game and ended up losing 2-1 at home to Manchester City, to slightly spoil what could have been a perfect weekend.
Despite the fact that City could overtake us if the win in midweek, Liverpool and Villa both have some ground to make up. If we can hand on in there, Wednesday 5th May could be a very important date.