EPL round-up: Spurs slump to Stoke, Newcastle win again

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Eye on the ball: Victor Moses of Stoke City and Kyle Naughton of Spurs compete for the ball during their game at White Hart Lane.

The problems confronting Mauricio Pochettino continued to mount after the Tottenham Hotspur manager watched his side slump to a 2-1 home defeat by Stoke City in the Premier League on Sunday.

First-half goals from Bojan Krkic and Jonathan Walters provided Stoke with the cushion to withstand a late Spurs rally triggered by Nacer Chadli's 77th-minute reply before the home side was reduced to ten men following Kyle Naughton's dismissal five minutes from time at White Hart Lane.

A fourth home league defeat of the season left Tottenham in 12th position, five places and six points worse off than at the same stage when Andre Villas-Boas was overseeing the final weeks of his reign before being dismissed in mid-December.

While Pochettino was forced to reflect on another disappointment, Stoke manager Mark Hughes could draw satisfaction from a win that moved his side into the top half of the table.

Elsewhere, Newcastle recorded their fourth win on the trot with a comfortable 2-0 win against West Brom at The Hawthorns.

Ayoze Perez recorded his second goal in two games with a well struck finish just before the break.

Newcastle continued to dominate proceedings and they doubled their advantage shortly after when Fabricio Coloccini met Daryl Jamnatt's cross with a ferocious header.

West Brom looked threatening late in the second half, but they couldn't string together that killer pass to force a consolation goal.

Tenth place Everton earned a vital point against Sunderland courtesy of a 76th minute penalty from Leighton Baines.

The Toffees struggled to conjure an opening for large parts of the contest, and went behind early in the second half through a Sebastian Larsson goal for Stoke.

But, Everton continued to hold firm and fourteen minutes from time, Seamus Coleman was chopped down in the box by Conor Wickham, with Baines converting the penalty.

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Sport360° view: Liverpool’s awful transfer deals are behind club’s troubles

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For five brief minutes at Anfield Brendan Rodgers believed that redemption was in his grasp.

Emre Can, grabbing the chance he had been presented with at the Bernebau in midweek, had punctuated an energetic display with a deflected opener.

So far, so vindicated. But the match had been extremely open and once Chelsea levelled, the cracks in Liverpool’s play that have blighted their season, became more and more apparent.

Ultimately those deficiencies are a result of poor recruitment, and the difference between Liverpool and Chelsea on that front is glaring.

The Londoners were quick to identify where they needed to strengthen in the summer and conducted their business with the minimum of fuss.

In Cesc Fabregas they bought a ready-made replacement for the departing Frank Lampard, who has given Jose Mourinho’s men an added dimension going forward.

Diego Costa was much more of a gamble but has acquitted himself better than most anticipated in his first campaign and provides the sort of goal threat Chelsea were crying out for last term.

The addition of Loic Remy, Didier Drogba and Felipe Luis, meanwhile, has given Mourinho depth.

Contrast that with their hosts yesterday, whose attempts to replace the sizeable hole Luis Suarez has left in their squad have been desperate and may well result in them dipping back into the transfer market come January.

Mario Balotelli is an easy scapegoat, and while he hasn’t covered himself in glory since arriving at Anfield from AC Milan, the club’s problems are not all the Italian’s fault.

Buying Balotelli was destined to fail from the start and Rodgers may now wish he never gambled on the sulking striker in the first place.

The Italian was never going to be as prolific as the man he was replacing, and does not guarantee 20 goals a season. Indeed he has notched 15 or more goals only twice in his career.

Liverpool’s success under Rodgers has been built on the pace and fluidity of their attacking movement.

In short, Balotelli does not provide the same thrusting runs that were the hallmark of Suarez and Daniel Sturridge last season and therefore Liverpool find it difficult to stretch teams.

As such they find it tough to create space against well organised opposition, and have come to rely far too heavily on the pace of Raheem Sterling.

Balotelli is a square peg that has been forced into a round hole, and as such it is easy to see why Rodgers seemed so reticent about his signature in the summer.

The Italian’s barren run could be masked, though, if the team were playing well as a unit.

This season was always going to be tough with the Champions League proving a drain on energy and resources.

But Rodgers’ other signings have not been up to the mark either.

Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana have impressed only in patches, and look to have been overpriced, while Rickie Lambert has been little more than a mascot.

They will be given time to bed in but the fact remains neither Lallana, Lambert nor Balotelli fit into the style of play that has got Liverpool this far.

It is an identity that Rodgers must rediscover if European nights are to remain on the Anfield agenda.

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Thomas Muller hat-trick helps continue Bayern’s unbeaten streak

Scott 9/11/2014
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Bayern Munich opened a seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 4-0 romp at Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday as Borussia Dortmund sank to the bottom for the first time in seven years.









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