x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Two sent off as Stoke add to Spurs' woes

Juande Ramos endures fresh horrors as Tottenham's nightmare start of the season plumbed new depths at the hands of Stoke.

The Spurs manager Juande Ramos, centre, looks dejected after watching his side lose yet another game at Stoke.
The Spurs manager Juande Ramos, centre, looks dejected after watching his side lose yet another game at Stoke.

Juande Ramos endured fresh horrors as Tottenham's nightmare start of the season plumbed new depths at the hands of Stoke. Spurs sunk to their sixth defeat in eight games to stoke up the pressure on their Spanish manager, who left the Britannia Stadium pitch grim-faced. It was the worst of matches for Tottenham and Ramos - a bitter defeat, two red cards and, not least, the Croatian defender Vedran Corluka suffering a serious-looking head injury. It started badly and rarely looked up for the visitors: Gareth Bale conceded a penalty and was red-carded 17 minutes into the game. Danny Higginbotham scored from the spot and although Darren Bent equalised, Rory Delap grabbed the winner to leave Tottenham with two points from eight matches, their worst ever start to a season - worse still than 1912, the year the Titanic sunk, when they at least had three points from the opening eight games. Ramos had to do without Ledley King, a major blow for the 20th-placed side against the team one above them in the table. Alan Hutton did return at right-back however, the Scot's first appearance since May 11. "You're going to be sacked in the morning," sang the Stoke supporters, and the Spurs players looked nervous in the opening exchanges. The tension was increased when Delap burst through the middle after good play by Mamady Sidibe and Dave Kitson. He shaped to shoot but instead laid the ball across to the unmarked Tom Soares who should have scored but hit his shot too close to Heurelho Gomes. Bent managed a header on target before Tottenham's troubles deepened. Bale made a complete hash of clearing Higginbotham's free-kick, Soares was onto him in a flash and took possession. The young Welshman lunged desperately to stop him but only succeeded in taking his legs. The referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot, and produced the red card - and Spurs could have little complaint about either decision. Higginbotham stepped up to take the penalty - several times as it turned out, because the buffeting wind kept moving the ball off the spot - and kept his composure to beat the diving Gomes low to the keeper's left. In the 24th minute Tottenham finally enjoyed a slice of good fortune. Hutton's shot was blocked with two Spurs players offside and the ball found its way through to Bent, who poked home from close range. The reversal in fortunes invigorated Ramos' side and Aaron Lennon went on a promising run but his shot was tame, then David Bentley curled a long-range effort but too high. Luka Modric was next to try his luck after cutting in from the right but his drive sailed wide, before Thomas Sorensen was forced into a one-handed save to keep out Lennon's fierce 20-yard strike. Spurs had shot their bolt though and Stoke began the second half with more purpose. It was Delap who scored the winner seven minutes into the second half after Stoke - who had until then relied on direct tactics - finally put together a decent passing move. The ball was worked through central midfield and then out to Sidibe on the right who struck a peach of a centre leaving Delap with a straightforward finish at the far post. This time, Stoke kept up the pressure and Ramos made his only possible change, sending on Roman Pavlyuchenko for Bentley, who again had been disappointing, but to no avail. Seyi Olofinjana brought a sprawling save out of Gomes from 25 yards before Stoke were forced into a change with Steve Simonsen coming on in goal for Thomas Sorensen after the Dane had been caught by Hutton. There was an incident of real concern when Corluka was carried from the field after twice being caught by his own keeper within a minute as Gomes tried to deal with Stoke's set plays. First the Croatian suffered a blow to the ribs and then caught the keeper's knee full on his chin. Lengthy medical attention on the pitch followed before the Spurs defender left on a stretcher wearing on an oxygen mask and was taken straight into a pitch-side ambulance. Tottenham had hope when Bent won a free-kick 20 yards out but Jermaine Jenas' effort was woeful. Soares should have wrapped it up when he seized onto Didier Zokora's hesitation but he scooped over. Corluka's injury left 11 minutes of injury-time to be played and Stoke contrived to hit the woodwork three times. Soares won a penalty after being fouled by Woodgate, Fuller hit the post and Delap's follow-up struck the bar, before Fuller again hit the angle. And in the closing seconds substitute Michael Dawson rounded off Ramos' bad day with another straight red card for a foot-up challenge on Sidibe.

*PA Sport