Matty salvages deserved point
Matty Etherington`s stoppage time goal ensured Stoke weren`t going away empty handed after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City. The Potters were excellent all over the pitch and outplayed a side that cost about ten times more in fees, but Pulis`s side were guilty of poor finishing as they failed to take advantage of an off colour City.
Micah Richards accurate finish with less then 10 minutes left looked to have won the game, but Etherington converted Tuncay`s superb back heel to extend the run to unbeaten in 4.
Tony Pulis was able to name the same side that beat West Brom so emphatically last week after both Jermaine Pennant and Andy Wilkinson recovered enough from injuries to start. Jon Walters, who grabbed two at the Hawthorns, wasn`t rewarded for his brace and sat along side Tuncay and Eidur Gudjohnsen on the bench.
The visitors clearly weren`t up for the flight in the first half at a freezing Britannia, and it was Stoke who dominated the early proceedings. Jermaine Pennant came within a foot of scoring early after a Delap throw found him at the back post. With his back to goal he did well to dig out a shot that just flew wide. The lively Fuller then sent Etherington on his way but Joe Hart did brilliantly to save with his foot after the 29 year old took it round him, it seemed like an easy finish but Hart did exceptionally well.
Stoke were excellent and pressured City into several mis-takes but they couldn`t make the most of the chances. Fuller, who was uncontrollable, and his strike partner Jones produced some magic that should have resulted in a Stoke lead. Fuller picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and after twisting his way through one tackle, he slipped it to Jones. The big target man turned sharply and flicked the ball back through for Fuller, who had continued his run. Ric was 1-1 with Hart but couldn`t quite cap off a fine move by dragging his left foot shot wide.
Although performing well below par, Mancini`s men were dangerous when going forward. David Silva had a free role in midfield to drift from side to side and he was the lynch pin to every attacking move. Balotelli showed some of the impatience he is known for as he tried a ambitious but rubbish attempt from 35 yards, and moaned at referee Peter Walton at every opportunity.
The referee was having a poor game but Stoke ignored his incompetence and continued bombarding the City goal. Jones, who`s jump is like that on a trampoline, headed a Collins cross over and Huth blazed a volley into the Boothern End from 8 yards. Andy Wilkinson decided he was going on a run and after beating two, he darted to within 20 yards of Hart`s goal but his through ball was mis judged and there went the final great chance of the half. Fuller did almost make something out of nothing, after cutting inside he curled his shot towards the corner but Hart got down well.
At half-time Pulis withdrew Pennant, who had surprised even the manager by making it onto the field, and in his place came fan favourite Tuncay. Mancini`s half-time team talk, or more likely half time yell at my so far hopeless players, hit the right spot as his side were much improved and far more dangerous.
The erratic Balotelli woke up and he beat two defenders and fired just wide, while Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back was becoming far more adventurous and he started producing some fantastic crosses. Although City were starting to impose themselves, Stoke came closest through Shawcross. After a cleared set-piece fell for Etherington on the edge of the box, his shot was directed just over the top by the Captain. Another day it would have gone sailing past Hart.
By mid-way through the half we had lost all the momentum and the tide has turned as City piled forward. Wilkinson`s troublesome knee played up again so he was forced off and on came Marc Wilson. The Irishman went into centre midfield, with Whitehead going to right-back. Danny Collins then had a heart in mouth moment as his back pass sold Begovic short with Tevez charging in. Fortunately he Bosnian just pipped the Argentinean to the ball, saving Collins blushes.
The game needed a goal, preferably from Stoke, and James Milner played a huge part at both ends by stopping Stoke and setting up City. Shawcross nudged Etherington`s corner towards the corner but Milner just got it off the line and then Jones followed up, but again Milner was there to rescue the Blues. Then only minutes later he supplied a pass to Micah Richards, who beat Collins with abit of skill before riffling the ball past Begovic giving him no chance, a super finish. It looked like City had undeservedly won it but never rule out Stoke in the second half.
As stoppage time arrived, Tuncay conjured up a moment of magic to leave Etherington the chance to level. With Stoke pushing forward Tuncay made a nice run to the edge of the box and when the ball was fed to him, he showed twenty twenty vision and sublime technique to back heel the ball into the path of Etherington behind. The pass was so perfect that Etherington couldn`t miss and he guided the ball past Hart, who did get a finger to it, and into the corner. That was the least we deserved and so that preserves Stoke four game unbeaten run. Next up are two very winnable games, firstly away at Wigan before Blackpool visit Stoke-on-Trent in two weeks.