By Associated Press - Saturday, April 7, 2018

STOKE, England (AP) - Christian Eriksen scored twice as Tottenham edged closer to securing a return to the Champions League by beating Stoke 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday.

Eriksen broke the deadlock in the second half before scoring direct from a free kick which appeared to just evade Harry Kane’s head, preventing the Tottenham striker from claiming a 36th goal of the season and moving four behind league leading scorer Mohamed Salah.

In between, Stoke levelled through Mame Diouf, but the loss meant they are four points from safety with five games to go.

Holding the fourth Champions League place, Tottenham moved 11 points ahead of Chelsea, which plays West Ham on Sunday.

Paul Lambert insisted he would pay little attention to the previous four thrashings Tottenham inflicted on Mark Hughes’ Stoke as he set his side up differently.

That was evident when Hughes kept faith with the starting XI that lost to Arsenal 3-0 last weekend with Diouf, who overcame a calf problem to start, blazing a good opportunity over early on.

Tottenham had been sluggish to start against Chelsea last weekend and the visitor was struggling for momentum here, too, until Son Heung-min was sent through one on one by Dele Alli. The South Korean bore down on goal only for goalkeeper Jack Butland to rush out and smother his attempt with the half’s biggest chance.

The Potters had been typically spirited and that inspired a crowd that needed no encouragement to jeer Danny Rose for his part in a Ryan Shawcross dismissal in 2014.

Yet the majority of the crowd was silenced seven minutes into the second half when Eriksen scored.

Mousa Dembele’s pass released Alli down the right and he neglected passing to Kane, instead biding his time for Eriksen to break into the box and sweep home the opener.

In previous four meetings with Spurs, each of which it lost by a four-goal margin, Stoke folded after conceding first. But it levelled within five minutes here.

Xherdan Shaqiri’s first real involvement was to curl a pass behind the defense that Diouf chased, with Hugo Lloris’ clearance cannoning off the Senegalese and back into his path to allow him to roll into an empty net.

The Stoke forward fell to the floor with an injury sustained challenging Lloris but, crucially for his team, he had been upright long enough to score the goal.

Spurs would soon restore their lead, though the identity of their scorer was no clearer from multiple replays.

The Stoke defenders were not close to Kane from Eriksen’s free kick, which was curled into the bottom corner.

Stoke, who had seen Kane score eight times against them in their previous four games against Spurs, hit the crossbar through a Shaqiri free kick but was unable to get another equalizer and it remains in deep trouble.


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