Gareth Bale nets as Spurs see off stubborn Stoke

Home side pegged back Premier League opponents before Davies and Kane sealed win

Gareth Bale of Tottenham celebrates after scoring his team’s opening goal during the Carabao Cup quarter final match against Stoke City. Photo: Tim Keeton/EPA

Gareth Bale of Tottenham celebrates after scoring his team’s opening goal during the Carabao Cup quarter final match against Stoke City. Photo: Tim Keeton/EPA

 

Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3

Tottenham Hotspur moved a step closer to ending their a 12-year trophy drought with a victory over Stoke that takes them into the Carabao Cup semi-finals. Spurs won this competition in 2008 and given José Mourinho has four winners medals no side will relish meeting his side in the last four.

By the close Spurs were good value for the victory, dominating from first whistle to last, apart from a wobble after the break in which Jordan Thompson levelled Gareth Bale’s opener. But they steadied themselves and via fine strikes from Ben Davies and Harry Kane ended in cruise control.

A Stoke goalkeeping injury crisis meant Michael O’Neill handed the 37-year-old Andy Lonergan a first start since he featured for Rochdale in March 2019 in League One. Mourinho’s headline selection was Dele Alli – who ended a month out of the first XI – with Bale also included on what wasa wet and windy evening in the Potteries.

Lonergan’s first action was to deal with a Lucas Moura corner, then a Davies cross as Spurs pressed. Bale’s opening contribution came from the right as he hit a free-kick at Moura, the Brazilian unable to capitalise. It was a passage of play that indicated the pattern of the contest: Mourinho’s side would not be the arch counterattacking proposition they usually are but would hog possession and have to break Stoke down via front-foot play.

When Kane glided along the right and hit a cross in Lonergan punched away, here was the next sign of Spurs’ potent creativity.

For Stoke taking hold of the ball and moving their visitors around was a problem they could not solve. Neither was Lonergan able to offer an answer to Bale’s flicked header when Harry Winks chipped the ball over from the right: this skidded past the veteran to give Tottenham the lead.

O’Neill’s discontent deepened when a free-kick routine that was supposed to trick Spurs by going in behind the wall was messed up by a heavy Jordan Cousins pass that sprayed the ball straight out. This had been Stoke’s sole foray so far anywhere near Hugo Lloris’s goal.

Spurs’s inventiveness soon had Alli drawing a foul with a slick turn, Cousins again culpable. Alli was a bright light, his next contribution a shot that forced Lonergan to save. And as the break neared a Moura knockdown was this time pinged from distance by Alli towards the right corner, the keeper diving low to repel.

The half ended with a Bale free-kick, Spurs having bullied Stoke throughout in an accomplished performance, Mourinho’s side illustrating the conditions and opposition were no drama for them.

For the second half Bale was removed for Son Heung-min: hardly a sight to cheer Stoke as the high-class South Korean would link up with usual partner, Kane, in attack. The latter’s ability was displayed when the captain dropped off and floated over a pass with which Alli failed to connect with Lonergan’s goal at his mercy.

But, now, Tottenham were suckerpunched just as they love to do to opponents: from a quick and lethal break. Steven Fletcher had entered on 34 minutes for the injured Morgan Fox and his pass into Jacob Brown along the right was a dab of class. Suddenly Spurs were turned and when Brown’s cross slid over, Matt Doherty flailed, and Jordan Thompson’s close-range finish beat Lloris with aplomb.

The difference here was simple: Stoke had injected aggression and intent into their approach. This next had James McClean thundering down his flank from left wing-back and Fletcher denied an effort at Lloris only by Davinson Sánchez’s clearance.

Mourinho acted with a double change: Moussa Sissoka and Erik Lamela replacing Moura and Alli, the manager hoping to wake Spurs from their ponderous mode.

It worked – Stoke were again disrupted and soon conceded. Harry Souttar will not wish to see again his hack at the ball which bounced it into Davies’s path. From distance the Welshman beat Lonergan across the latter to finish supremely inside the right post.

This re-established the dominance Spurs had enjoyed until Stoke’s equaliser. Kane again pulled strings, Lamela flitted around the front areas, and Son had what appeared a perfectly legal strike chalked away for offside.

It was soon 3-1, though. Thompson mis-controlled, Sissoko found Kane, the No 10 smashed home, and he would also have a late effort blocked. – Guardian

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