Spurs fourth after draw with Stoke

Tottenham held by Stoke

Eurosport

Rafael van der Vaart's stoppage-time header – which cancelled out Cameron Jerome's effort 15 minutes from time - was not enough to stop Spurs slipping out of the automatic Champions League places, but it did at least end the club's run of three successive league defeats.

Having spent so much of the season in third place – at one point 10 points clear of the teams below them – Spurs have now been leapfrogged by local rivals Arsenal following the Gunners' 1-0 win at Everton.

Conceding Van der Vaart's late equaliser denied Stoke the chance to move into the top half of the table, but their solitary point is enough to move them up three places to 11th. The draw also ends their own poor run of three successive defeats on the road, as well as a sequence of eight straight losses on trips to London.

With Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon still out injured, Harry Redknapp started Louis Saha and Niko Kranjcar up front and on the right wing respectively.

Tony Pulis, seeking a league double against the manager he played and coached under at Bournemouth, fielded former Spurs duo Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios, and the Honduras international was joined in midfield by Salif Diao and Jerome.

Stoke began in characteristically energetic fashion, pressing Tottenham and not allowing them to dictate the tempo. That early pressure led to Jerome sending two chances over the bar and Crouch heading wide at the near post from a corner.

Spurs gradually began to get more possession in the Stoke half. Van der Vaart, looking livelier than at any other time in recent weeks, robbed Palacios of the ball and weaved his way to the edge of the box but his shot was saved and held by Asmir Begovic.

Gareth Bale occasionally switched flanks with Kranjcar, and one such move led to the Welshman playing in Luka Modric, whose drilled low shot flashed just wide of the far post with Begovic looking beaten.

Glenn Whelan replaced the injured Diao midway through the first half as Spurs continued to control the play. Saha worked space for a shot from the right of the area and drew a decent save from Begovic with a solid strike.

Whether or not Redknapp was aware of Arsenal leading at Goodison as he took his players in at half-time, he knew the importance of claiming all three points, and as such brought on Jermain Defoe in place of Kranjcar for the second half.

The England striker gave Spurs more energy in attack but was unable to test Begovic with Stoke retreating deeper as the half progressed.

It took until the 74th minute for Spurs to really look like scoring. Bale's dipping shot from range had the beating of Begovic but rebounded agonisingly off the crossbar.

To add insult to injury, Stoke scored within a minute of that close call. Jerome was fouled by Kyle Walker, and after Jermaine Pennant's excellent dead-ball delivery was flicked on by Robert Huth and ricocheted off Ryan Shawcross the former Birmingham City forward was at the far post to prod home from barely a yard out.

Spurs were shell-shocked and appeared to be running out of ideas as Stoke looked ever more comfortable defending their lead.

However, they finally breached the Potters with their 18th shot on target of the match when Bale's peach of a cross was glanced past Begovic by Van der Vaart's diving header in the second of five added minutes.

It was the Dutchman's first league goal since New Year's Eve and Bale's first assist in the league for seven games.

Spurs cannot afford two of their star players to go through similar barren spells now that they are playing catch-up on their local rivals with just nine games of the season remaining, the first of which takes them to Chelsea on Saturday.

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