Monday 12 December 2011

Stoke 2 Tottenham 1.The Ultimate Game of What Ifs.

The Britannia Stadium was at it's inhospitable best for the visit of the TV cameras and Tottenham on late Sunday afternoon.The rain was intermittently slanting across the pitch and noise volume was prolonged and loud.The Stoke team were also back to defying convention by winning in their unique and unusual way.See here.The Potters had 40% of shots on target,36% of the possession,but claimed 66% of the goals and 100% of the points,producing another classic "Stoke under Pulis" display.

Stoke 2 Tottenham 1.

2-0,Penalty awarded to Spurs,61'
2-1,Red Card,Kaboul,82'

The bare facts of the game hide a match that was bathed in controversy almost from the start.Red cards,penalties,both given and not given,disallowed goals,goal line handballs,Stoke/Spurs encounters over the EPL years have featured all of these things and they each put in an appearance during Sunday's action packed encounter.

Stoke's Opening Goal with the Score at 0-0.

Crouch,after initially splitting opinion after his big money arrival from Tottenham is proving to be a hit.His continually underestimated ball skills were in evidence after 13 minutes when he cleverly slid the ball across the face of goal for Etherington to bundle home Stoke's opening goal.Unfortunately for the officials he fairly clearly handled the ball just prior to his decisive pass.He also handled at the Brit last season,preventing a Walters equaliser deep into the game when playing for Spurs.Neither official spotted that one either,so there was little sympathy from the Stoke fans as Mr Foy again showed he has an apparent  blindspot when reffing Crouchie.

The goal was enough to propel Stoke's expected points past the diminished Spurs projection.Had the goal not stood,Tottenham would have remained the strong favourites,Stoke's strong start notwithstanding.

Modric's Penalty Award with the Score at 2-0.

Fans are notoriously blinkered when viewing penalties awarded against their own side,so the incessant booing  of Modric following his slightly delayed action tumble following Whelan's clumsy lunge was to be expected.There was enough visual evidence from some of the camera angles to suggest that contact was non existent.However,the intent to foul is often sufficient to cause a player to change direction and lose balance and so Foy's call was at least understandable.Less so,especially given the soft second yellow dished out to Kaboul after fouling Walters in a much less threatening position on 82',was his failure to yellow card Whelan.

 Stoke remained favoured over Spurs from their leading position with just under 30 minutes remaining even allowing for an expected Spurs onslaught as the Londoner's suspicion that the game was retrievable bore fruit.Had the penalty not been awarded and scored,Stoke fans would have been breathing at lot more least for the next couple of minutes.

Kaboul fails to get Spurs a second Penalty with the Score at 2-1.

Mr Foy was probably reluctant to invoke the wrath of the Stoke fans so soon after the Modric award and turned down Kaboul's justified claims for a second spot kick when Shawcross manhandled him as the pair jumped for a cross.Given the amount of contact refs are allowing defenders at the moment,Shawcross would have been right to feel aggrieved if his shirt tug had been punished,but it was a foul.Kaboul was booked for his amusingly mimed protest.

If the decision had gone Spurs' way,Stoke would have clung onto marginal favouritism.As Adebayor had stepped up for the kick,he would have faced a dilemma.Stick with his favoured and already used method of shooting to the keepers left or change sides,simply blast it or allow Modric to take the kick.So there was already enough uncertainty about whether Spurs would actually have scored from the spot.However,the graph has simply factored in the usual 75/25 success rate for penalties.

The 74th minute.

Viewed from row two of the Boothen End the 74th minute didn't appear all that dramatic,but apparently it was.100 yards from the action,most Boothen Enders picked up the linesman's flag before Adebayor turned the ball home,but few saw the two penalty shouts,both against Shawcross and both likely to have resulted in his dismissal.

Defoe Foul/Shawcross Goalline Clearance with the Score at 2-1.

Within seconds Shawcross apparently prevents Defoe from connecting from close range with a shirt tug and then has the presence of mind to cover his undefended goal by clearing Kaboul's cross shot,albeitwith his arm.Had Mr Foy taken a less generous view Stoke's captain would have been off and Adebayor would have been playing mind games with Sorenson again.

The graph refers to the handball,but is equally applicable to the alleged foul on Defoe and demonstrates the absolutely punitive nature of a red card and penalty combined.Stoke would have fallen from being strong favourites to being likely to pick up on average around a point compared to almost 1.5 expected points for Spurs.The graph reflects that the penalty had yet to be missed or scored.

Adebayor's Disallowed Goal with the Score at 2-1.

Marc Wilson's conversion to fullback hasn't be all plain sailing.Despite an excellent season he is occasionally caught ball watching and immediately following the Shawcross incidents he was late tracking out of the box.That was enough to play Adebayor well onside,but with Adebayor and Wilson moving in opposite directions it was only a split second before the Spurs striker appeared to be offside and that optical illusion combined with Shawcross and Sorenson's confident offside appeal was sufficient to get Stoke a lucky verdict.

Had Adebayor's goal stood and the game became tied,Stoke would have found themselves in virtually the same Expected Points situation as they would have been if instead Shawcross had been dismissed and Spurs were preparing to take a potentially game tying penalty.So the two contrasting scenarios are virtually interchangeable and interestingly in my opinion,intuitively neither choice seems "better" for Stoke than the other.

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