Tottenham makes easy work of Stoke
Roberto Soldado converted his fifth penalty of the campaign while Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele also scored fine goals to give Spurs a much-needed with at White Hart Lane. Tottenham were flat and wasteful in Sherwood’s first full game in charge on Boxing Day, but on Sunday they were far better.
Dembele and the returning Paulinho bossed the midfield against a physical Stoke side while Lennon’s performance on the right flank gave Tottenham the cutting edge they lacked against the Baggies. Sherwood promised to bring attacking football back to the blue and white half of north London and he certainly has lived up to that vow.
His team have averaged two goals a game in the four matches he has been in the Tottenham dugout. More welcome to the Tottenham manager will be the fact that his team managed to keep a clean sheet in the league for the first time since Nov. 3. With his first win as permanent head coach now under his belt, Sherwood will be confident of achieving a shock victory at Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Stoke never looked like threatening the Spurs goal, although manager Mark Hughes was rightly aggrieved that Michael Dawson was not penalised for hacking down Oussama Assaidi in the box when the game was goalless. Hughes was on his feet complaining after four minutes. Jon Walters was barged over by Zeki Fryers after latching onto a long ball over the top, but referee Kevin Friend waved play on.
Both teams took their time to get going. Dawson buried a volley deep into the away fans and Sherwood was annoyed at his team for not creating enough chances. Tottenham’s first real opening came when Lennon got behind the Stoke defence following a cutting pass from Kyle Naughton, but neither Christian Eriksen nor Emmanuel Adebayor could finish.
Sherwood spun around on the touchline and yelled angrily as Soldado dragged a volley wide. Although they were wasteful in front of goal, Tottenham were dominated possession in the first quarter. Stoke did venture forward on one occasion, though, and they should have arguably had a penalty from the attack.
Assaidi cut inside from the left channel and was too quick for Dawson, who cut the Moroccan down in the box. Stoke’s players – and Hughes – complained en masse, but Friend gave nothing. Tottenham were back on the attack moments later through Lennon, who turned Erik Pieters inside out – but Ryan Shawcross diverted the ball away from the three Spurs players who were lurking in the box.
Sherwood jumped up and down in angst, but he finally had a smile on his face after 36 minutes when Soldado gave Spurs the lead. Friend pointed to the spot when Adebayor’s acrobatic volley struck Shawcross’ outstretched arm and Soldado converted to maintain his flawless record from the spot.
Tottenham continued to dominate after the break. Dembele held onto the ball majestically in midfield. Walters earned a booking for pulling Dembele back, but the Belgian and Shawcross saw yellow for clashing after the challenge. Dembele got the goal his performance deserved just after the hour. The midfielder looked to have run out of options when he checked inside from the right, but after dropping the shoulder he escaped Steven N’zonzi and drove a left-foot strike into the bottom corner past a sprawling Thomas Sorensen.
Sherwood leapt up into the air and clenched his fists in celebration – and a third goal came soon after. Soldado’s cross found its way to Lennon at the back post via Adebayor’s boot and the England winger despatched a dipping volley past Sorensen from the tightest of angles.
White Hart Lane was rocking for the first time under Sherwood’s stewardship. Lennon received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Erik Lamela with 15 minutes left. The Argentinian would have had his first Premier League goal soon after had Geoff Cameron not put in a fine block after a lay-off from the selfless Adebayor.
Crouch had a chance to pull a goal back for Stoke, but he wasted it and Tottenham achieved their first league win at home since October 27.