LONDON — Three thoughts from White Hart Lane as Harry Kane led Spurs to an emphatic 4-0 win against Stoke.
1. Kane puts Stoke to the sword
Tottenham climbed up to second place in captivating style, blowing away Stoke with the quality of their attacking play. When Spurs hit top gear, they are the Premier League’s most entertaining team. And at their fulcrum, just as he has been for the last three seasons, was Harry Kane, who delivered first-half fireworks in scoring a hat trick and setting up Dele Alli for the fourth.
Kane notched his 100th career goal in the 14th minute, a considerable feat for a player who is still just 23, and he did it in just 219 matches, an excellent strike rate. It was also his 20th of this season to remind fans and neutrals alike of his huge worth to his club. His hat trick, following on from his treble at Fulham in the FA Cup the previous Sunday, made it 41 goals in his last 50 matches, which is on the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
While a number of his colleagues have lately slumped in form, Kane just keeps producing and never seems sated in his hunger for goals. He might have had many more than three. One first-half exocet of a shot had Stoke keeper Lee Grant beaten but arrowed just past the angle of post and bar, while his intelligent running into space pulled opposing defenders all over the place. Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indy may need some positive reinforcement after being given such a chasing.
Kane did not wait long for number 101, crashing a volley past Grant after a Christian Eriksen corner in the 32nd minute. The hat-trick came five minutes later, after Eriksen teed him up from a free-kick, and he boomed a low shot that deflected off the wall and left Grant stranded.
Such brilliance must have gone some way to soothing his manager’s disposition. Mauricio Pochettino was offering no rest for the wicked in fielding exactly the same team that drew 2-2 on Thursday with Gent en route to exiting the Europa League. Judging by his sideline demeanour (the Argentinian harangued his players from the start), he will never be happy with his players. When Eriksen, having done the difficult part in escaping from Stoke’s defenders in the early stages, failed to find a teammate with his pass, Pochettino yelled expletives into the North London sky.
Even after Kane buried his first goal, seizing on the ball after it bounced away from Shawcross heavy touch, Pochettino kept up his irate monologue in the technical area though once Alli scored Tottenham’s fourth in first-half injury time (set up by Kane, of course), Spurs’ manager looked a little more cheery.
He had little need to be downcast. Stoke manager Mark Hughes had many more reasons for rage. “I would be very surprised if the result was the same,” he had said before the match, referring to Spurs winning 4-0 at Stoke back in September.
The real surprise was that Tottenham did not add to their half-time lead.
2. Adam targets Alli to no avail
Back when Gareth Bale was a Tottenham player, Charlie Adam was usually his chief agitator, with the Welsh wizard on the receiving end of some agricultural treatment. Alli was the Scot’s target this time around: his sending off for a vicious hack on Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere was a reminder that the youngster has something of a temper and can be wound up by opponents.
Adam’s name was booed when read out in the preamble, with memories still fresh of him twice “nobbling” Bale. He fully lived up to his bad reputation on Sunday, too. It was Glenn Whelan who went first into the book for a clattering challenge on Eric Dier but the 25th minute saw Adam join his midfield partner on a yellow card for a hack that sent Alli flying.
It was all so predictable, and left Adam walking a disciplinary tightrope that he might have fallen off, making another heavy foul on Alli soon after. Spurs fans called for his dismissal but contented themselves with Kane scoring his third goal from the resultant free kick.
Adam was not alone in having a hack at Alli, either. Marko Arnautovic was also booked for a scything lunge. Amid a truly hopeless performance from Stoke, both sluggish in midfield and calamitous in defence, kicking Alli was the only visible tactic. And just like everything else the visitors tried, it did not work. Alli scored and resisted the temptation of responding in kind.
3. Unhappy return for Crouch
Peter Crouch received warm applause from the home fans. The veteran 36-year-old, who reached 100 Premier League goals earlier this month, is remembered fondly for his role in Tottenham’s 2010-11 run to the Champions League quarterfinals and a winning goal at AC Milan. A rarity in playing the game with a smile on his face, Stoke’s target sadly had a very lonely afternoon. Only occasionally were Marko Arnautovic and Ramadan Sobhi on the flanks able to get on his wavelength.
Sobhi’s link with an overlapping Erik Pieters set up a golden sliding chance when the score was still 1-0. Hugo Lloris made an excellent save to deny what would end up being Stoke’s last chance to gain anything like a foothold in the game. Instead, Crouch could only watch on as Kane, his successor as Tottenham’s leading striker, put on a masterclass. He left the field on the hour mark to even more applause, never having enjoyed enough service to roll back the years.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.