STOKE CITY'S hopes of signing off 2013 with a Barclays Premier League victory were dashed on Sunday afternoon as they fell to a 3-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
The Potters, who went into the game with a number of injuries and suspensions, found it difficult to contend with the attacking threat of the home side, but can feel aggrieved not to have been awarded key decisions with the scores level.
A first half penalty from Roberto Saldado was added to in the second half by strikes from Mousa Dembele and Aaron Lennon as Spurs ran out comfortable winners on a chilly afternoon in London.
Mark Hughes made three changes to the side which fell 5-1 to Newcastle United on Boxing Day as Andy Wilkinson and Wilson Palacios replaced suspended duo Marc Wilson and Glenn Whelan respectively, whilst Stephen Ireland came in for Charlie Adam who had to settle for a place on the bench.
Tottenham made the brighter start to proceedings but it was the visitors who almost took the lead on five minutes. Erik Pieters’ ball forward released Jon Walters however as the striker closed in on goal he went down under pressure from Zeki Fryers but his protestations for a foul were turned down by the referee.
Spurs responded and went narrowly close themselves when Emmanuel Adebayor forced a corner down the City left but Christian Eriksen’s pin-point delivery was fired over by an unmarked Michael Dawson on the penalty spot.
The hosts were beginning to dominate and had a further opportunity to put themselves ahead after 15 minutes but Aaron Lennon’s ball across the six-yard line was firstly missed by Adebayor, before the onrushing Eriksen was denied at point-blank range by Thomas Sorensen who continued to deputise for the injured Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal.
Saldado tried his luck from 20 yards but dragged his effort wide of the right-hand post minutes later before Mark Hughes’ side went down the other end and had appeals for a penalty turned down when Oussama Assaidi cut into the box and seemed to have been tripped by Dawson as he was about to shoot from 14 yards.
Spurs always look the more likely to break the deadlock and after Saldado missed a free header from Fryers’ left-wing cross, the Spanish striker put the visitors ahead on 36 minutes from the penalty spot.
Saldado’s cross from the right was controlled by Adebayor before his bicycle kick was adjudged to have been handled by Ryan Shawcross inside the box, leaving Saldado to coolly fire the spot-kick past Sorensen into the bottom right-hand corner.
Spurs started the second half in the same manner that they had finished the first and could have extended their lead their lead within minutes of the restart but Paulinho and Eriksen both failed to trouble Sorensen when well placed.
Hughes decided to make a substitution on 50 minutes when he replaced Ireland for Adam and it almost brought about immediate rewards as the Scottish international curled a 30-yard free kick just wide.
Lennon was a constant threat for Tottenham and his whipped delivery from the right should have resulted in City falling two behind but Saldado fired a tame shot into the grateful hands of Sorensen.
The hosts didn’t have to wait much longer however to extend their advantage because on 65 minutes Mousa Dembele worked himself some space from just outside the box before firing a shot across goal and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Just four minutes later Spurs were further ahead when Saldado’s intended pass to Adebayor found its way to Lennon eight yards from goal and he superbly fired into the top corner from an acute angle.
The Potters were struggling to deal with the forward play of Tim Sherwood’s side who could have added a forth when Pennant’s loose pass was pounced on by Adebayor but after unselfishly laying the ball into the path of substitute Erik Lamela, the former Roma attacker saw his shot expertly blocked by a covering defender.
City could have grabbed a goal back in the dying minutes of the game but Jermaine Pennant’s cross from the right was headed straight at Hugo Lloris by Peter Crouch from close range.