STOKE CITY staged a sensational second half comeback to claim their first Barclays Premier League point of the season at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon.
Spurs had looked on course to claim maximum spoils in their opening home game of the campaign courtesy of Eric Dier’s early header and Nacer Chadli’s volley right on the stroke of half-time.
However, a stunning second 45 minutes culminated in Mark Hughes’ side claiming the point they fully deserved.
Firstly, substitute Joselu earned his side a penalty with a tremendous piece of skill inside the 18-yard box which Marko Arnautovic calmly tucked home.
The visitors maintained their second half dominance and reaped their rewards in the 83rd minute when Mame Diouf met Stephen Ireland’s inch-perfect cross and glanced the ball into the far corner of the net.
There was even a chance to grab all three points at the death when Ireland made a superb run into the penalty area but flicked the ball over the bar after Arnautovic had picked him out.
Mark Hughes made just one change to his starting line-up ahead of kick-off with Arnautovic replacing Charlie Adam in the eleven.
His inclusion came as a boost to the Potters, who were denied the opportunity of handing Club record signing Xherdan Shaqiri his debut after the FA invoked a one-match suspension hanging over from his spell with Inter Milan.
The Potters struggled during the opening exchanges as Spurs looked to kick-start their season after suffering defeat at Old Trafford in last Saturday’s 2015/16 curtain-raiser.
England international Harry Kane was a constant menace with his power and pace whilst the trickery of Chadli and Christian Eriksen always provided the home side with questions to ask the Potters’ rear-guard.
One of Stoke’s downfalls last term was their frailties from set-pieces, and that once again proved to be their Achilles heel when Dier rose highest inside the penalty area and guided Chadli’s corner beyond the fingertips of Jack Butland.
Senegalese international Diouf spurned a glorious opportunity to level matters from close range when he headed straight at Spurs’ skipper Hugo Lloris.
England international Butland showed his class to deny Chadli from distance before he rushed off his line to beat the winger to the ball when he found himself clean through on goal.
Kane did have the ball in the back of the net on the half-hour mark as the home side continued to press forward, but the linesman correctly flagged for offside, much to the frustration of the supporters housed behind the goal.
Arnautovic linked up superbly well with Ibrahim Afellay down the left flank five minutes before the interval, but wasn’t able to pick out Diouf who was steaming in at the far post.
Just as the referee was preparing to bring the opening 45 minutes to a conclusion, disaster struck and the Potters found themselves two behind when Chadli reacted quickest inside the 18-yard box and let fly a powerful half volley that took a small deflection before nestling in the back of the net.
Two behind and with the home side playing with fluidity and confidence, it was always going to be a case of weathering an early second half storm and hoping for an opportunity to half the deficit later in the half.
That wasn’t the case though as Hughes’ fired-up troops came out with real passion and purpose and had the hosts on their back foot from the very first minute of the second half to the last.
The introduction of Ireland and Joselu midway through the half added creativity and quality to the side, even though Diouf had forced Lloris into another superb save with a close range header ten minutes after the restart.
It was the introduction of the aforementioned pair that had a telling effect however, as they linked up superbly well down the left, before Joselu produced a moment of brilliance to leave summer signing Toby Alderweireld in all of a flap before he tripped the Spaniard inside the penalty area.
After the former Hoffenheim man had dusted himself down, Arnautovic picked the ball up and calmly slotted it to the ‘keeper’s right to drag his side back into the encounter with little under 15 minutes remaining.
Stoke pressed and pressed in a bid to salvage a deserved point from the encounter and they were duly rewarded when Diouf, at the third time of asking, superbly guided Ireland’s outstanding centre into the back of the net – sending the 2,000 travelling Stokies into delirium.
Whilst Diouf was the name on the lips of the City supporters, they were also indebted to Butland who produced two absolutely key saves prior to Diouf’s goal, denying Eriksen with a tremendous save with his foot before thwarting Moussa Dembele with an impressive save down to his right.