EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR’S late strike condemned Stoke City to a narrow defeat on their 150th Anniversary in front of the live television cameras on Sunday afternoon.
The Togo international stole in at the back post to prod home Clint Dempsey’s dangerous centre to complete a spirited Spurs comeback, having fallen behind to a first goal of the season for Steven Nzonzi in just the third minute.
The midfielders neatly taken header had ensured a dream start for the hosts as the festivities which proceeded the game looked to have carried on beyond kick-off.
It was indeed Dempsey, the architect of Adebayor’s decider, who levelled matters for the Champions League hopefuls during the first half as he displayed his qualities by catching Begovic off his line from 30-yards
following a defensive mix-up.
The dismissal of Scotland international Charlie Adam just two minutes into the second half left the Potters with a mountain to climb, however, they looked on course for a point before Adebayor’s winner eight
minutes from time.
Pulis had made one change to the side which drew at Sunderland on Bank Holiday Monday with Etherington preferred to Jerome to face his former club, while there was a boost with Wilson being passed fit after his recent hamstring troubles.
After all the pre-match celebrations, the tremendous atmosphere inside the stadium hit even an higher level when City scored in their first attack.
They were awarded a free kick for Dempsey’s foul on Shotton on the right hand side and Adam swung it to the near post where Nzonzi had escaped his marker to meet it with a glancing header that went in off the inside of the post.
Tottenham’s response, predictably enough came from Bale, who cut inside from the right and unleashed a dipping 25-yard drive that forced Begovic to turn it over at the bar at full stretch, giving Tottenham their first corner of the game.
Although that corner came to nothing, City were forced to soak up a period of pressure in which Bale scooped another long range shot over the bar.
Spurs did have the ball in the net when Walker drilled a low ball into the box which was cleverly backheeled past Begovic by Adebayor, but the assistant referee’s flag was already up, ruling that the striker was in an offside position.
The warning signs were there and Tottenham equalised in the 20th minute when a crossfield ball from Parker was only half cleared by Wilson at full stretch with Begovic stranded off his line and Dempsey calmly lobbed it into an empty net.
Spurs were very much in the ascendency after City’s rousing start to the game and it required patience and concentration to deal with a sustained period of possession from the Champions League hopefuls as they probed for an opening.
There was some respite for the Potters when an opportunity almost fell Adam’s way after Caulker laboured in his attempt to clear a Crouch flick-on with Walters breathing down his neck, but the Scottish international had to try a cross in the end.
Begovic was called upon to make a smart reflex save at his near post when Dawson got his head to a free kick swung in by Bale four minutes before the break.
After a quite period in the game, it burst to life in the final few minutes as Adam was booked for a challenge on Vertonghen as he tried to latch onto a Walters flick at the far post following a menacing cross from
Etherington on the left hand side.
As the action swung from end to end, there was an anxious moment for the Potters as Bale was given the freedom to burst into the box and his low shot had to be well saved by Begovic who got down at his near post to keep it out.
Adam then conjured up an opportunity to out of nothing in injury-time at the end of the first period as he wriggled past Dempsey into the box and when his cross was blocked, the ball then ricocheted back to him only for his shot to be charged down.
Having been in the thick of the action at the end of the first half, Adam’s appearance in the second period was a brief one as he was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence when he was penalised for bringing down Vertonghen.
With Huddlestone pulling the strings in the middle of the park, Spurs mounted a spell of intense pressure to make the one-man advantage count.
It was perhaps not surprising in the circumstances that it wasn’t long before Pulis made changes, sending on Wilkinson for Etherington and Jerome for Crouch.
This allowed Shotton to push forward on the right hand side to accommodate Wilkinson’s arrival, while Walters switched to a role wide on the left.
When Huddlestone picked out the overlapping Vertonghen, he volleyed the ball into the box from the left hand side and it required Shawcross to make an important interception.
City were relieved to see a Bale free kick from 20 yards cannon against the wall after Nzonzi had been penalised for upending Lennon in full flight.
It was wave after wave of Tottenham attacks at this stage with Begovic having to show excellent handling when Bale volleyed a cross into the six yard box, while Vertonghen was ruled to have been offside when he headed over a Huddlestone free-kick.
Pulis made his final change 17 minutes from the end when Shotton was replaced by Cameron who slotted into a midfield role to give City another pair of fresh legs.
The Potters were relieved to see another Bale chance go begging as he swivelled in the box past two defenders, but his shot with his weaker right foot flashed wide.
After having to soak up so much pressure, City had a golden chance to regain the lead ten minutes from the end when they were awarded a free kick which Whitehead hoisted to the far post where Huth climbed to send a powerful header flashing over the bar.
They were then made to pay a heavy price for squandering that opportunity as goalscorer Dempsey turned provider by springing the offside trap to latch onto a Bale pass and send over a low cross for Adebayor to applying a finishing touch from close range.
The officials indicated that there would be four minutes of added time, but Tottenham were now content to sit on their advantage while in a nice gesture, their supporters sang a round of Happy Birthday to the Potters for their 150th Anniversary.