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Three talking points as Tottenham romped to a five-goal victory over struggling Stoke City

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Tottenham

Harry Kane’s double helped Tottenham return to winning ways in the Premier League as Mauricio Pochettino’s side easily swept aside a poor Stoke City at Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Going into Saturday’s clash without a league win in four matches, the hosts started brightly and got the opener in fortunate circumstances when Ryan Shawcross deflected a low cross into his own net.

Stoke rarely threatened Hugo Lloris in a one-way first-half and it was Tottenham who should have gone into the break two to the good only for Harry Kane to tuck a shot wide when put clean through.

The visitors capitulated in the second-half though, and three goals in a ruthless 12-minute spell from Son Heung-min and Kane – whose second strike was a sublime low finish – put the result beyond any doubt.

Pochettino’s men weren’t done there though, and Son was afforded the freedom of the Wembley Stadium pitch on the counter-attack to thread a pinpoint ball through for Christian Eriksen to add a clinical fifth.

Shawcross did atone for his earlier own goal with a late consolation but Mark Hughes’ side now drop down to 15th, just three points above the relegation zone, whilst Spurs momentarily move above Arsenal.

Spurs claim much-needed league victory

Whilst their Champions League exploits have been catching the eye, Tottenham’s recent Premier League form has left a lot to be desired and they already find themselves all but out of the title race.

Heading into Saturday’s clash 18 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City, and with just a solitary league win to their name in the last six matches, they needed a positive result against Stoke.

Whilst a lot has been said about their form at Wembley this season they were never really tested against a woeful Potters side and it’s no exaggeration to say that Spurs could have scored a lot more.

It seemed that the frustrations of the past few months had finally boiled over and came out in an explosive display on the pitch, with Stoke the unfortunate recipients of a Spurs backlash, and Pochettino would no doubt have been pleased with the way his side ruthlessly picked them apart.

The first goal may have come with a huge slice of luck but it’s the way that the hosts completely played Stoke off the pitch in the second-half that will renew hopes of finishing inside the top four.

Dele Alli had his best game in a Tottenham shirt for a while, Christian Eriksen was back scoring, Son Heung-Min continued his excellent recent form and Harry Winks put in another classy midfield performance, whilst another cameo role from Erik Lamela was a pleasing sight for Tottenham fans.

They may still be a long way from rekindling their fluency from White Hart Lane last year but such a big win could prove to be the catalyst for an upturn in Tottenham fortunes and offer a timely morale boost.

Kane reaches milestone as prolific year continues

In a week where Tottenham striker Harry Kane was announced as the tenth-best footballer in the world at the Ballon d’Or ceremony there was almost an inevitability about the fact he would score.

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the 24-year-old is one of the most prolific strikers at the moment, and he was in full flow on Saturday as his quick-fire double blew away a hapless Stoke City.

The Potters must be sick of the sight of Kane as, just months after striking a 23-minute hat-trick at White Hart Lane the last time the two sides met, he took his tally to eight in his last four games against them.

He rose highest above Ryan Shawcross to nod in his first of the afternoon but it was his second that deserves the plaudits, controlling the ball on the edge of the area before placing low in the corner and past the despairing dive of Jack Butland, signalling Kane’s 50th goal of an incredible 2017.

It also brought up his 90th Premier League goal in just 131 appearances – only Alan Shearer has reached that milestone in less games (113) – and Kane just shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Is Hughes running on borrowed time?

For all the talk of Tottenham finding some sort of rhythm on Saturday afternoon, nothing can excuse the abject performance that Stoke City put in.

It was certainly a harrowing afternoon for Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who will no doubt be starting to worry about his future after seeing his side drop down the Premier League table to 15th.

Three defeats in their last four matches have seen the Potters gradually fall closer and closer to the relegation zone and defeat to Tottenham now leaves them precariously placed three points outside.

Whilst they managed to hold their own during the first-half without offering any real threat themselves the manner in which they capitulated after the break will be a real concern as Spurs weren’t made to work hard for their goals, and the Potters’ defence was cut apart way too easily.

The current problems at the club were perhaps personified in Tottenham’s fifth, which came from an offensive corner for Stoke, where not a single player put in the effort to track back and help out.

As alluded to earlier it’s no exaggeration to say it could have been an even more demoralising final score had it not been for some heroics from Butland, who denied Eriksen and Kane brilliantly late on.

The warning signs are starting to flash and Hughes will know that there needs to be a big response against Burnley on Tuesday night or he could be the next top-flight manager staring down the barrel.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Match Reaction

“Terrible, terrible manager”: West Ham fans lose patience with David Moyes

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Photo: Getty Images.

Drawing with Stoke City was a disappointing result which brought West Ham firmly back to earth after seeing off Southampton and then drawing at Stamford Bridge, but fans pointed the finger at one man in particular: David Moyes.

The former Everton, Manchester United and Sunderland boss opted to retain the same starting line-up that took a point from Chelsea and used the same 5-4-1 system, deploying Marko Arnautovic as a makeshift centre-forward.

On home turf against second from bottom Stoke City, the conservative set up almost ended in catastrophe as Joe Hart’s calamitous error allowed Peter Crouch to give his side the lead before Andy Carroll’s last gasp equaliser.

Fans did not hide their displeasure on Twitter…

The Scot’s contract is set to run until the summer with safety still not secured for the Hammers, who have been brought right back into the fight by drawing against the Potters.

It could have been worse for the Irons had David Moyes not looked to his bench, where he first deployed the hero at Chelsea, Javier Hernandez, but even then not until the 77th minute.

Playmaker Manuel Lanzini joined in with only nine minutes left on the clock and Andy Carroll, who proved to be the equaliser, was only given four minutes of normal time plus injury time.

(Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

With fixtures coming up against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United before the season is out, fans were baffled by the decision to go quite so defensive in a must win game at the London Stadium.

Now, West Ham are seven points from safety with five games left to play but only face opposition against top half sides, with a trip to face Leicester City and Sam Allardyce’s return on the final day of the season with Everton completing the club’s fixture list.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United: Three talking points from Selhurst Park

The Red Devils mounted an incredible comeback at Selhurst Park.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Getty Images

Nemanja Matic scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit to inflict more pain on struggling Crystal Palace. Matic fired home from 25 yards to complete a memorable comeback from United, whose victory helped them regain second spot in the Premier League. Palace, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone after slipping to their third successive defeat.

Selhurst Park was rocking when Andros Townsend put the hosts ahead via a huge deflection, before Patrick van Aanholt doubled their lead shortly after the break. However, Chris Smalling gave United hope 10 minutes later and the visitors then restored parity through Romelu Lukaku. With time ebbing away the draw looked inevitable, only for Matic to break Palace’s hearts with his first goal for the club. Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images)

Palace’s survival hopes suffer a hammer blow

A week earlier, the Eagles thought they had earned a vital point against Spurs in their battle to avoid the drop. That was until Harry Kane popped up to snatch victory with practically the last touch of the game. A sense of deja-vu was palpable when, after another encouraging performance against one of the top-flight’s heavyweights, Matic ensured Palace went home empty-handed. It was a monumental body blow.

Roy Hodgson’s side had belied their lowly league position and taken the attack to United, deservedly assuming complete control. Had the score remained at 2-0, Palace would have been as high as 13th in the table. But United’s comeback, which left Hodgon and his players visibly deflated, means they are 18th, one point adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference. Although the performance was a positive one, the result leaves the South London club deep in the mire.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Mourinho buoyed as United show resilience

For all the talk about how this has been a disappointing campaign for United, they leapfrogged Liverpool into second place as a result of this stunning victory. Jose Mourinho’s men exhibited substantial amounts of steel in doing so. They faced a real test of character, having fallen behind against a team fighting for their lives. It looked like a mountainous task, but United fought their way back into the game before snatching all three points at the death.

This was the first time since 2013 that the Red Devils had clawed back a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. Of all their victories this season, perhaps this one will please Mourinho the most. Any divisions are quickly exposed when teams find themselves in trouble. But the way United stuck to their task was a big statement at a key stage of the season. It should give Mourinho belief that his side can see off the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle to finish runners-up.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Hodgson desperate for Wilfried Zaha’s return

Hodgson has previously tried to dismiss its significance, but Palace’s inability to win without Wilfried Zaha cannot be passed off as an anomaly. The Eagles have lost every single one of the nine Premier League games in which the 25-year-old has not featured this season, scoring only one goal in the process. For a while it looked as though that alarming record would be consigned to the history books, until United mounted an inspired comeback.

Zaha is clearly a talented individual whose absence would affect any team’s potency, but Palace’s over-reliance on him must be very concerning. The Ivory Coast international is currently sidelined through a knee injury and although he is back in light training, Hodgson has put no timeframe on his return to the fold. It’s no exaggeration to argue the Eagles’ survival aspirations depend on him.

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Bournemouth

Leicester City 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the King Power

Rob Meech

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Leicester City
Photo: Getty Images

Riyad Mahrez’s stunning 97th-minute free-kick rescued a point for Leicester City against Bournemouth.

Mahrez, who had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the January transfer window, curled the ball past Asmir Begovic from 30 yards to deny the Cherries victory in a grandstand finish at the King Power Stadium.

Joshua King had given Bournemouth a first-half lead when he stepped up to dispatch a spot-kick after being fouled inside the area.

The Foxes threw everything at their opponents in the second period but had to wait until deep into added-time for a dramatic equaliser.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Redemption for Mahrez after troubling period

The Algerian’s attempts to engineer a switch to City and subsequent failure to report to training had not been well received by Leicester supporters.

Mahrez had been a key figure in the Foxes’ phenomenal Premier League title triumph two years ago, but his reputation suffered a battering when he made it clear he saw his future away from the club.

After a difficult period for all involved, Mahrez is back in the fold and now back in the fans’ good books.

His last-minute goal against the Cherries certainly was evidence of his redemption.

Thirty yards out, the 27-year-old started the ball outside the wall and watched it bend back past Begovic’s outstretched right hand.

Leicester, who have never beaten Bournemouth in the top-flight, are winless in five Premier League matches, but they remain eighth in the table.

With Mahrez’s reintegration seemingly complete, a fruitful finish to the season could even help them push for a European place.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Howe ‘disgusted’ as Bournemouth concede so late

Bournemouth’s backs had been firmly up against the wall in the second half as they sought to hold on to their tenuous advantage.

It looked to have been a worthwhile effort until Mahrez’s moment of magic.

A share of the spoils was probably fair in the context of the game, but Cherries manager Eddie Howe admitted he felt ‘disgusted’ after watching the visitors concede so late.

Only four minutes of stoppage-time had been scheduled, but an injury to Simon Francis as well as a substitution meant referee Lee Probert played nearly double that amount.

Despite missing out on what would have been a crucial win, Bournemouth are edging towards safety.

They have lost only once since Christmas, a run that has helped them climb out of the relegation zone and amass 33 points.

Two more victories from their remaining nine fixtures should be enough to secure Premier League football for a fourth successive campaign.

(Photo by Roland Harrison/Getty Images)

Summer will be a key time for both clubs

In a league that is dominated by the so-called ‘Big Six’, the primary aim of the other 14 clubs is survival.

As mentioned above, both Leicester and Bournemouth are all but guaranteed to be playing in the top-flight next season.

The question for both in the summer will be, how can they push on?

The first job for the Foxes’ hierarchy and manager Claude Puel will be deciding the future of Mahrez.

Do they cash in on their star player and reinvest the funds into the squad, or do they try to tie him down to a new contract?

Bournemouth’s ambitions are perhaps not as high as Leicester’s, but after finishing ninth last season, another mid-table position will consolidate their status as a bona fide Premier League outfit.

On the field, there may be some significant outgoings as Howe looks to freshen his resources.

The out-of-favour Harry Arter is one player who looks likely to leave the south coast.

Off the field, the club will hope its plans for a new stadium get closer to becoming a reality.

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