Sunday, January 24, 2010
I have to confess to feeling less than confident before the match.We have so much cup history with Arsenal,most of it bad in my lifetime,especially the two semi-final swindles in the early '70's.O ye of little faith!!
Total elation then, within 70 seconds of the start,when Fuller headed home a Delap long throw,to give us the lead.Ominously the visitors began to get their game together,as the half progressed.It was no real surprise,although somewhat fortuitous,when they got an equaliser just before halftime.
Whitehead somewhat harshly was judged to have handled just outside the box.Arsenal played the ball square.Denison's low drive was deflected by Collins beyond Sorensen into the Stoke net
In the second half Stoke took a measure of control.Tony Pulis was just about to sub his strikers when they combined to craft a fine goal to restore our lead.
Now Mama Sidibe sometimes doesn't look particularly quick,but on this occasion he took off down the right wing his long strides leaving the Arsenal fullback trailing in his wake.Cutting in slightly he clipped the ball delicately towards goal where the incoming Fuller headed home for his second of the day.
Arsenal had introduced additional big guns Arshavin,Edwardo,and Ramsey but they made no impression on a combative Stoke outfit.
Etherington had been busy and successful down the left.He played a number of tremendous balls across the Arsenal six yard box without a Stoke player getting a finishing touch.On 80 minutes he crossed again,but this time Whitehead was on hand to tap home,and put the game beyond The Gunners.Unbelieveably shortly afterwards Tuncay had the ball in the net again,a classy finish, but he was adjudged to have handled.
Stoke played out the remaining time reasonably comfortably,securing a well deserved victory,and earn a tie against...Manchester City !!!!
Anyone at home would have been a fitting reward...but what the hell.Enjoy the evening!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 1 LIVERPOOL 1
You'd have thought Rafa Benitez' job was on the line,from all the media froth over the last few days.Chants from the Stoke fans were less than charitable...."You're getting sacked in the morning"....."You're just a fat spanish waiter"......This outcome of this game could decide his future at Liverpool ......
Fair enough Liverpool were without three of their stars,Torres,Gerrard,and Benayoun....but Benitez paid Stoke the compliment of setting out his (still not inexpensive) team and tactics,not to lose.Tony Pulis was similarly conservative in his approach,replacing Lawrence with Salif Diao.
Both teams worked hard,huffed and puffed,but largely cancelled each other out.Neither goalkeeper was seriously overworked throughout.
Stoke had a strong opening ten minutes,with Etherington looking threatening,and Tuncay marauding about the pitch.Once Liverpool had them shackled Stoke did not offer much by way of a threat.For the most part the first half was even with virtually no shots on goal.
Stoke pressed at the beginning of the second period,but it was Liverpool who took the lead on 57 minutes.A Higginbotham tackle out on the Stoke left was judged to be a foul.There is little doubt that he played the ball first before bringing the man down.The resultant free kick was driven in low and hard.It reached Sorensen,as five players bore down on him (one of the approaching Liverpool players having his leg extended in a somewhat threatening way, which would certainly have bothered me if I was in his place).
Sorro clearly didn't fancy the contact much.First to the ball, he was,but with an ineffectual,half hearted push away (rather than gathering the ball which he could have managed with a little more resolution).The loose ball was bundled into the Stoke net by Kyrgiakos.
A scruffy goal very similar to Jerome's recent winner for Birmingham.The Stoke team had a right to expect rather better from their keeper.
As always Stoke came back strongly,pushing Liverpool into their own half,forcing a series of throw-ins and corners,all producing little until the 90th minute.Etherington's corner from the right seemed to be clearing everyone in the area until Danny Higginbotham rose,despite being under challenge,to head back across goal.The ball found Huth unmarked.His prod into the net for the equaliser was met with unbridled delight around The Brit.
There was still time for Liverpool to break out.Unbelieveably Kuyt headed against the post,when it seemed easier to score.In more confident mood he would have buried it.
Benitez left out Agger.A very shrewd move as it turned out for his replacement, Kyrgiakos, had an outstanding game,an absolute rock in defence popping up everywhere,usually when it mattered.Not to mention his goal of course.Mama Sidibe was unable make much of an impression on him.It is significant that he was less at ease with Fuller,tricky as ever, coming on as sub,who made much more happen,winning freekicks,building the pressure and corner count from which we eventually profited.
A fair result in the end though.Another point toward safety for The Mighty Potters.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
The country crippled by snowstorms,freezing temperatures,gridlocked roads,schools and factories closed,grit and salt running out....and still SPORTING OASIS STOKE SHRUGGED IT ALL OFF!!
Lunchtime saw the postponement of the Blackburn v Aston Villa League Cup Semi-Final,so Sky switched its live coverage to Brit.What a bonus for stranded Stokies everyhere.
The only question then - as heavy snow fell outside the window in deepest Cheshire - would the match survive the worst the elements could throw at it?
There was no doubting the club's determination to get this match played.Messageboard reports from fans working near the ground testified to the mammoth effort the club was making.Not to do a Wigan,approach roads and pavements were kept clear, gritted and salted.Inside the ground stewards were attending to safety issues,clearing the snow,salting.The ground staff busy keeping the pitch in condition.
Brilliant effort from everyone.Both managers wanted to play,the ref's initial doubts were overcome.7.30pm and Sky's Jeff Stelling said it for all of us...amazing performance to get the game on at all,couldn't quite believe our luck.Beautiful green playing surface,with snow still swirling about as the match kicked off.
Stoke had the ball in the Fulham net in less than two minutes.....Etherington's effort disallowed for offside.After a brief spell of Fulham pressure,Stoke took over,got the press on the visitors,and almost unbelieveably powered to a 3-0 lead.The impressive Etherington had a hand in all three goals scored by Tuncay,Abdy Faye,and Mama Sidibe.
Tuncay went off injured,and his replacement Ricardo Fuller was unlucky not to net another two goals.
Halftime 3-0 up, Fulham blown away,still SNOWING and FREEZING.....those of us with long 'STOKE' memories REMEMBERED.... Oldham,I think it was,in the Cup at The Victoria ground...Stoke 2-0 up at halftime.....match ABANDONED.It couldn't happen again could it?
Things seemed different from the start of the second half.Our heroes seemed to have gone into a state of semi-hibernation...Fulham began to threaten.You feared the worst,Wolves style.A major deflection off Ryan Shawcross gave them their first goal and hope.The second from Dempsey was a beautifully struck long range shot which dipped over Simonsen into the net giving The Cottagers (?)belief.
Heart in mouth time,serious increase in blood pressure,sweating (although probably not amongst those at the ground itself I would suspect)....could we hold out with all the momentum going Fulham's way?
That we did was down to that magical ingredient...LUCK.Ref Clattenburg missed a penalty area handball,of the sort that we've seen given before now.Fulham shot wide...
But we got there.A vital win,up to 10th in the table,opening a 6 point gap from the drop zone.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Conference side York arrived at The Brit just on kick off time 3.00pm,having been delayed on the M62 by adverse weather.The match started half an hour late,the visitors with a 4,500 following,all looking for a cup shock
Stoke were indeed shocked by the non-league visitors who took the lead from a Lawless freekick,Barnett netting(22mins).Stunned silence amongst the home faithful was soon replaced by cheers as within a minute or so the Potters,first equalised then took the lead.Both goals resulted from Delap long throw ins.The first was an own goal by Parslow (24mins),the second a Court header finished off by Ricardo Fuller (26mins).
From a foul on Fuller -easily Stoke's liveliest player in the first half- Matty Etherington's freekick curled beautifully around the defensive wall into the top corner of the net (58mins).
With 20 minutes to go Tuncay replaced Beattie,and Sidibe came on for Fuller 10 minutes later,as Stoke played the game out with little threat from the visitors.
Stoke : Sorensen (Simonsen 45min),Huth,Cort,Higginbotham(Capt),Collins,Etherington,Whitehead,Delap,Lawrence,Beattie,Fuller