Emmanuel Adebayor slid home a late winner yesterday to lift Tottenham back above north London rivals Arsenal into a Champions League qualifying position as they saw off ten-man Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Andre Villas-Boas’ men had laboured in search of a potentially lucrative winner after Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam was dismissed in the 47th minute for a second bookable offence.
But Adebayor tapped in a cross from Clint Dempsey in the 83rd minute to take them back up to fourth and pile pressure on Arsene Wenger’s men, who face Wigan tomorrow night.
Spurs had started in dismal fashion as they fell behind to a Steven Nzonzi header after just three minutes, before Dempsey equalised with a brilliant piece of improvisation in the 20th minute.
Despite having nothing but pride to play for, it was Stoke who started with more intent and Nzonzi headed an Adam free-kick past Hugo Lloris after Dempsey had fouled Ryan Shotton.
Dempsey had the ball in the net in the 15th minute but was ruled offside, however five minutes later the American drew his side level. Stoke defender Marc Wilson and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic got in a muddle over a crossfield ball by Scott Parker, Wilson clearing the ball to Dempsey who responded by lobbing it straight back over Begovic from 30 yards.
The equaliser did not cause Stoke to lose any of their conviction, with an Adam chip into the box almost finding former Spurs striker Crouch.
But Spurs began to get more of a grip on the game and almost grabbed a second five minutes from the break when Michael Dawson met a Gareth Bale cross with a header which Begovic parried.
And Begovic came to Stoke’s rescue again just before the break when he palmed away a low effort from the increasingly influential Bale.
Stoke’s task got a lot tougher two minutes into the second half when Adam was dismissed by referee Kevin Friend after a clumsy challenge on Jan Vertonghen on the Spurs left.
The visitors almost capitalised immediately, a low corner striking Dempsey and deflecting just over Begovic’s bar.They proceeded to pin Stoke back for long periods and a second Spurs goal began to look inevitable. Next, a clever run from Tom Huddlestone, was halted by Shawcross and when the ball sprung clear to Bale, his low shot was well saved low by Begovic.
But a second goal continued to elude them and some tension began to seep into Spurs’ play before they finally grabbed their second goal through Adebayor, seven minutes from time.
Stoke, though, came close to grabbing a shock equaliser in injury time when substitute Geoff Cameron headed into the side-netting from a tight angle.