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Tottenham Hotspur kept their hopes of a UEFA Champions League place alive as they earned a 2-1 victory over 10-man Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League.
Tony Pulis' side grabbed the advantage less than five minutes into the game through Steven N'Zonzi but Clint Dempsey equalised for the London outfit. Charlie Adam was shown a red card early into the second half and the visitors' pressure finally told when Emmanuel Adebayor tapped home the winner with seven minutes to go to lift Tottenham into the top four.
Pulis made just one change to the side which earned a point at Sunderland, Matthew Etherington coming in for Cameron Jerome. Tottenham brought Stephen Caulker in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, while Clint Dempsey replaced Germany international Lewis Holtby following their 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday.
Stoke started brightly and took the lead after just three minutes, N'Zonzi heading in at the near post from an Adam free-kick. Tottenham were edgy in defence but looked a threat going forward and thought they had levelled matters when Dempsey deflected Kyle Walker's effort into the bottom of the net, but the Amercian's strike was ruled out for offside.
However, four minutes later Dempsey did score in somewhat bizarre fashion, sending a looping effort into an empty net after Marc Wilson had played Scott Parker's lofted ball into his path after a lack of communication had left Asmir Begovic out of position.
Spurs gained confidence following that equaliser and went close again three minutes later, Gareth Bale firing over with a long-range free-kick. The Welshman went close again after 44 minutes, his left-footed effort from the edge of the area well saved by Begovic.
The hosts were able to hold on until the interval, but two minutes into the second half they were dealt a huge blow as Adam was sent off for a second bookable offence following a lunge on Jan Vertonghen. Adam's dismissal had the inevitable effect as the home side sat behind the ball with Spurs pushing forward at will, still Andre Villas-Boas' men were far from clinical, with Vertonghen's ballooned effort evidence of their wastefulness.
Spurs' urgency was clear for all to see and when Begovic saved again from Bale at the near post it appeared only a matter of time before the visitors would eventually find a winner. Stoke's defence was fragile, but they rode their luck effectively and survived another scare as Vertonghen headed over after latching on a free-kick from Tom Huddlestone.
Dempsey stung the palms of Begovic once more and Bale fired wide from close range, but Stoke remained a threat and almost grabbed an unlikely winner when Robert Huth headed over from a free-kick. However, it was Spurs who had the final say, Adebayor slotting into an empty net after latching on to a Dempsey cross at the end of a sweeping move to maintain the White Hart Lane club's top-four ambitions.
The victory sent Spurs up to third on 69 points, two above Arsenal, who play Wigan Athletic on Tuesday.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "What disappoints me is there was a full house here for a great day to watch a really good game of football and it has just been taken away from them. The game was then not a game [after the red card].
"Good teams will frustrate the life out of you and what you mustn't do is get dragged into it and lose your shape and your discipline. We're disappointed in particular with their second goal because it was a deflection that let their lad in. That was the little bit of luck we needed that maybe we didn't get today.
"I'm delighted for us to be in the Premier League for a sixth consecutive season. It's not just what the club have done on the pitch, it's what the club has achieved behind the scenes as well."
Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "It keeps us in the frame and gives us the possibility of making the Champions League so the important thing is the dream is still alive for us.
"We wanted to take it to the last day when we are playing at home, so it was an extremely important win for us for those reasons, and hopefully someone else will slip up. Arsenal are strong and experienced but it will go down to the wire.
"He [Dempsey] has been absolutely immense this season with his assisting and his goalscoring and he has sometimes not got the credit he deserves. He is a hard worker and a very complete athlete and he had an amazing game. It was an extremely good individual performance.
"We came back from difficult circumstances because part of Stoke's strength is their delivery at set-plays and the delivery [for the goal] was absolutely amazing. But we managed to control the other ones and the circumstances turned for us. I am extremely happy for the team in the way we were patient in the game, we kept the ball moving and eventually we got the breakthrough."
|19 May 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|07 Dec 2013||v Stoke (H)|
|14 Dec 2013||v Hull (A)|
|21 Dec 2013||v Stoke (H)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Newcastle (A)|
|29 Dec 2013||v Spurs (A)|