Sharp Spurs stay on tails of Leicester

Stoke City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 4: “Leicester City, we’re coming for you” sang Tottenham’s jubilant supporters as their side showed in the most emphatic style that yes, they can cut it on a cold night in Stoke.

Harry Kane and Dele Alli scored two goals each as Spurs blew away Mark Hughes’ men and closed the gap on Leicester to five points with four games to play.

And although Spurs are having to play catch-up, they are playing the football of champions, too good for Stoke from start to finish.

If Leicester slip again as they did at the weekend, dropping two points at home to West Ham, Spurs are ready to seize the initiative and this performance showed they have the ability to push them all the way.

“It was a great game and I’m very pleased with the performance,” Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said.

“We’re still fighting. Our dream is to fight and to put pressure on Leicester and the performance and the result was fantastic.

“Today I feel very proud. Stoke wanted to win the game and we showed personality and character. Maybe today is one of the performances that you feel most proud of because of the character to cope with the pressure.

“We showed hunger and passion. I have a squad of players who feel passion about the game. They deserve praise and credit for their season.”

Kane added: “It doesn’t get much better than that. We hardly put a foot wrong and could have scored more.

“Every single one of us put in a good performance and we have done for a while now. We are ready to put the pressure on Leicester. We think we can do it. Leicester are five points ahead but we have closed the gap, that’s all we could do.”

Spurs started like they meant business and intended to close the gap on Leicester as quickly as possible.

Shay Given was making a belated debut for Stoke and the veteran Ireland keeper was soon called into action, saving with his legs as Kane conjured a low shot through a crowded penalty area.

But Given was given no chance in the ninth minute when Kane scored the opening goal — and what a beauty it was. Jan Vertonghen looked to have overhit a long pass down the left flank, but while others dithered, Kane chased a seemingly lost cause. He retrieved the ball close to the touchline, brought it back into the danger area on the left side of the penalty area and exchanged passes with Mousa Dembele before unleashing an unstoppable shot that curled past Given and into the far corner of goal.

The goal gave Spurs confidence to go forward, as if they needed it. While Stoke stood off, Spurs played the ball around them with ease and created numerous chances. Alli saw one shot deflected over the bar and another fly high and wide. Dembele went close to the angle of bar and post with a long-range piledriver, and Kyle Walker drove the ball into Given’s arms when he could have picked out Kane.

A delightful one-touch passing move ended with Christian Eriksen one-on-one with Given, but the Dane lifted his shot a shade too high and the ball rattled off the crossbar and back into play.

Mark Hughes, having seen his side outplayed for most of the first-half, made a change for the second, sending on striker Joselu for the ineffective Xherdan Shaqiri, and both sides soon had chances. Ibrahim Affelay shot wide of the far post from long range, while Danny Rose was denied a rare goal for Spurs when he lost his footing as he attempted to take the ball round Given.

But it was a rare let-off for Stoke, as Spurs simply stepped up a gear. Just as they did in their 3-0 defeat of Manchester United last week, Tottenham struck three goals in devastating fashion to take the game beyond the opposition.

Alli had not been having his best game, and again missed a chance when he shot high over the bar after being set up by Eriksen in the 54th minute. But when the Dane played the youngster in later, he timed his run to perfection, sprung Stoke’s attempted offside trap, controlled the ball with his thigh and lifted it delightfully over Given.

Moments later he went close, taking the ball around Given after a breathtaking move but hitting the post as he tried to put the ball in an empty net from an angle. But it mattered little. Kane made it 3-0 in the 71st minute after another swift counter attack, with Alli playing in Erik Lamela, who squared the ball for Kane to tap home his 27th of the season.

Spurs were toying with the deflated home side and Alli made it 4-0 with a volley of great confidence from Eriksen’s chipped cross.

So with four games to play, Tottenham are five points behind Claudio Ranieri’s team — and as they sang on the final whistle: “Leicester City we’re coming for you.”

STOKE:

Given 6; Cameron 5, Wollscheid 4, Shawcross 6, Muniesa 5; Whelan 6, Imbula 7; Shaqiri 5, Affellay 6, Arnautovic 7; Bojan 6

Stoke subs:

Adam for Whelan 76, Joselu for Shaqiri 46

Subs not used:

Haugaard, Bardsley, Ireland, Diouf, Crouch

TOTTENHAM:

Lloris 7; Walker 7 Alderweireld 8, Vertonghen 7, Rose 8; Dier 7, Dembele 7; Lamela 7, Alli 8, Eriksen 9; Kane 9

Tottenham subs:

Chadli for Alli 84, Mason for Dembele 86, Son for Lamela 89

Subs not used:

Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Davies

Referee:

Neil Swarbrick.


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