STOKE CITY FC 3 MANCHESTER CITY 1
Understandably there were some empty spaces at The Britannia stadium tonight, but the vocal backing was as loud as ever from the 21,000. Tony Pulis had to make changes to his first choice lineup again, in particular Whitehead appearing at right back and Huth centre back for the suspended Wilkinson and Faye respectively.
Man City set off at a brisk pace, as if to banish from their minds the way they had been overpowered by 10 man Stoke at the end of last week’s Premiership game. Certainly they looked pretty threatening as Stoke’s enforced changed formation took a while to gel.
During this early period Thomas Sorensen earned his keep with fine saves.He was faced with Bellamy, one on one as the striker was played in by Adebayor.He spread himself to deny the less than sharp Welshman.
Stoke gradually gained control of the game pushing the visitors back, mounting a period of sustained pressure, but without delivering on the chances created.
Both Fuller and Sidibe found themselves walking a tightrope as they were booked early by referee Bennett.
Kicking toward the Boothen End in the second half Stoke began as they had finished the first,denying Man city the time and space to settle, pushing them back into their own half. Just ten minutes in Tony Pulis began to make changes with a view to winning the match without extra time. Tuncay came on for Salif Diao.Similarly Mancini replaced Ireland with Wright-Philips.
Shortly after Bellamy had a shot deflected away to safety, and Barry, stealing in behind the Stoke defence unmarked as he had done the previous week, from close range headed a searching Wright-Philips cross from the right over the bar when it seemed it was easier to score.
Danny Pugh came on for the largely ineffectual Liam Lawrence, and immediately had a shot headed away by Lescott. With less than 20 minutes to go Pulis substituted Kitson for Sidibe. A masterstroke this as the ginger one showed all the quality and composure that was the norm in his Reading days. Tuncay received the ball from Kitson on right edge of the visitors penalty box .Tuncay’s clever little return ball to the striker, saw him finish with consummate ease shooting left footed low along the ground into the right corner of Given’s net.
Some time on the pitch against Portsmouth, and now a more significant contribution tonight,dare we hope that Kitson’s rehabilitation as a Potter is complete? It was good to see how pleased his teammates were for him. A class finish from a very good player.
Wild celebration quickly turned to relative quiet as within a minute or so Manchester were back on terms. Adebayor cushioned the ball to Bellamy.His low drive arrowed into the Stoke net evading Sorensen’s dive.
The real turning point followed when Adebayor lashed out, flooring Shawcross in the process, and was shown the red card. Against the 10 men Stoke had two chances ,one each from Shawcross and Fuller going narrowly wide.
So extra time it was to be. Five minutes into the first period Stoke won a throw in on the right. Rory Delap took the inevitable long throw, Given decided to come for the ball with no chance of getting it (or successfully repeating last week’s amateur theatrics),Captain Shawcross headed into the unguarded net.
Whelan, having a fine game, won the ball near the half way line, and made off for the Manchester goal. He squared the ball to Tuncay on the right. The Turk beat one then two men in the box, before netting off Lescott on the goal line. All over…the visitors looked dispirited….their fans began to drift off home.
A fine and well deserved victory in the end. Bring on Chelsea …Potters in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup for the first time in how many years?
Oops, forgot we just have Arsenal on Saturday. Amazingly, but a sign of how far we have come, the Daily Mail was forecasting a Stoke win for this one…… hopefully the players will have enough left in the tank to deliver….