Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Saturday January 31 2009
James Beattie`s second goal in four days lifts Stoke out of the relegation zone, as Stoke picked up a much needed win against multi-billionaires Manchester City. New boy Beattie superbly headed home Etherington`s cross only minutes after Rory Delap had been shown a straight red for violent conduct.
Tony Pulis made two changes to the team that was shredded to bits at Tottenham on Tuesday night, by bringing in both Ricardo Fuller and Danny Pugh who deputised at left-back in replace of the injured Danny Higginbotham. Man City handed a debut to Nigel De Jong who was joined by fellow new signings Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge.
Stoke started well with James Beattie almost getting on the end of a Ricardo Fuller cross but was denied by young blues keeper Joe Hart. At the other end Stephen Ireland struck a volley wide of the post after some poor Stoke defending. Stoke clearly lacked confidence at the back early on and with Robinho, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips and Ireland all sniffing around it was an edgy atmosphere to begin with at a normally vibrant Britannia Stadium.
Stoke started to pick things up and won a series of throw-ins and corners that caused problems to Man City`s defence. The best chance of the opening quarter fell to Robinho, after a quick break away Stoke were caught out-numbered and the little Brazilian found himself 20 yards away from goal with only Sorensen to beat. Fortunately for Stoke he scuffed his shot straight at the Dane much to the delight of the home crowd.
At the other end Stoke threatened to take the lead as Ryan Shawcross flicked on a Delap throw harmlessly over the bar and Ricardo Fuller found himself in a yard of space but just as he tried to unleash a shot he was crowded out by the Man City backline.
The Delap-Shawcross combination almost paid off again as the young centre-back cleverly flicked on another throw with his heel but his effort flew straight into the arms of Joe hart.
Unfortunately the conjuror of Shawcross`s efforts, Delap, got his marching orders in the 37th minute as he took offence to Wright-Phillips earlier tackle on Etherington and kicked the ball at the English international, who in turn kicked Delap back. Referee Martin Atkinson sent only Delap off much to the horror of the home crowd.
Miraculously the ten men of Stoke scored the opener minutes before half time. After soaking up plenty of pressure Stoke worked the ball up-field with a series of throws, Etherington picked the ball up on the left wing and chipped a beautiful ball into the box where Beattie was waiting. After out-jumping Bridge he planted a powerful header past the helpless Joe Hart to send Potters fans delirious.
Richard Cresswell was introduced at the beginning of the second half replacing the out of sorts Fuller, who hadn`t played since being sent off at West Ham. Man City dominated possession during the early knockings but couldn`t create any clear cut opportunities.
Craig Bellamy came closest to breaking Stoke`s resistance as he curled an effort over from outside the box, Robinho was also was resigned to shoot from distance but also found no joy. Both Elano and Felipe Caicedo were introduced to try and salvage something from the game as Stoke continued to close Man City down and shut them out if they got within 20yards of the goal.
Robinho again fired wide and Micah Richards was inches from getting on the end of Robinho`s cross only three yards out. Stoke responded to this and drew upon Ibrahima Sonko and Andy Griffin to ease the situation.
Stoke fans hearts were in their mouths as Richards fell down under the tackle of Andy Griffin but were relieved to see the referee wave away penalty claims. At the other end James Beattie cracked an effort from 25 yards that stung the palms of the keeper, the occasional Stoke attack was a welcome change from the amount of pressure Man City were applying.
Elano went close with a cheeky chip late on but they couldn`t find that elusive goal as the referee blew for full time, the noise that erupted was similar to the promotion success back in May, as this marks Stoke`s first win since November 21st. Pulis`s balmy army now find themselves occupying 16th spot and only one point clear of 18th placed Blackburn.
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Date:Saturday January 31 2009
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