Tottenham 3-0 Stoke City: Blistering first half from Spurs rewarded after the break (Video)

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Tottenham Hotspur worked immensely hard in the first half with just a penalty to show for it, but a pair of open play goals after the break ensured three points for Spurs from White Hart Lane.

Roberto Soldado converted the first half penalty, and it was Mousa Dembele and Aaron Lennon who really gave Spurs fans something to smile about.

Stoke’s midfield did their best to peg Spurs back with physicality and toughness, with Tim Sherwood having elected to play two strikers instead of the extra midfielder, but it was Tottenham who always looked on top.

Mark Hughes and Stoke City were content early to sit back and defend, knowing the history Spurs have this season in front of goal.

The home side’s finishing record came into question early, as Emmanuel Adebayor had a gaping opportunity to open the scoring.

Aaron Lennon sprinted down the right flank and found Adebayor in the box with a cross, but Adebayor slipped just slightly and he bungled the opportunity.

The story continued, as Paulinho brilliantly flicked on with a back-heel chip to Roberto Soldado just onsides, but the Spaniard ripped his low shot just wide on 15 minutes.

source: AP
Roberto Soldado again struggled finishing from open play, but he was instrumental in support and finished Spurs’ first-half penalty

Stoke City nearly countered in the 29th minute with Oussama Assaidi, who cut through Spurs defenders in the box but a last-ditch challenge by Michael Dawson, and Stoke’s penalty shouts were waved off.

Replays show Stoke were hard done, as Dawson gets none of the ball and definitely brings down the Moroccan.

Spurs continued to attack at a rapid pace, and Soldado had a pair of chances with his head but he whiffed on the first cross from the right, and the follow-up from the left he headed just wide.

Finally, they were rewarded for their efforts as a Soldado cross found Adebayor, and the latter’s scissor-kick volley hit the outstretched arms of Ryan Shawcross in the box and referee Kevin Friend rightly awarded the penalty.

Soldado finished off the penalty by wrong-footing Thomas Sorensen for a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The Spaniard’s struggles from open play continued in the second half, as a chance in the 58th minute saw Soldado somehow miss with acres of space in the box on a cross from Lennon.

Finally, Spurs got something from open play to show for their efforts in the 65th minute, as Mousa Dembele took matters into his own hands and after a few cut-backs in the midfield rifled home a fabulous strike for Spurs’ second.

Aaron Lennon finished off the game four minutes later.  Soldado found Lennon via the foot of Adebayor, and the winger curled his effort into the top corner to ensure the three points.

Despite the early penalty miss for Stoke, it’s a deserved win for Tottenham who owned 64% of possession and owned seven shots on target to Stoke’s zero.

The win pushes Spurs up past Newcastle, taking advantage of the Magpies’ loss to Arsenal earlier in the day.  Stoke City remain on 21 points, in 12th position but with a tough schedule ahead they could be threatened by the relegation zone with similar results.

GOALS:

Tottenham – Soldado 37′ (pen); Dembele 65′; Lennon 69′

LINEUPS:

Tottenham – Lloris; Naughton, Dawson, Chiriches, Fryers; Lennon (Lamela 75′), Paulinho (Capoue 62′), Dembele, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado.

Stoke City Sorensen; Wilkinson (Muniesa 81′), Shawcross, Cameron, Pieters; Walters, Palacios (Pennant 68′), Nzonzi, Ireland (Adam 50′), Assaidi; Crouch.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”