Huth`s double sparks dramatic win
Two late goals from Robert Huth saw Stoke come from 2-1 down to grab all three points against Sunderland. The Potters conceded sloppy goals at the beginning of each half either side of a John Carew equaliser, but then Pennant`s deliveries and Huth`s fortune sealed a pulsating win.
Tony Pulis recalled several players from Wednesday`s defeat at Liverpool. Captain Ryan Shawcross returned from a two game suspension and replaced Abdoulaye Faye at the heart of the defence. Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones also earned a recall, but Ricardo Fuller missed the match while attending a family funeral.
In front of the live sky cameras the Potters would have been confident of over coming a side that hadn`t scored in either of their visits to the Britannia. However 2 minutes in they put that to bed. Bardsley`s cross from the left found Asamoah Gyan who mis-cued his shot into the path of Kieran Richardson who had all the time in the world to lash the ball home from just 6 yards. Another poor start from Stoke who are starting to make this an unwelcome habit.
The conditions were tough and with the pitch cutting up rather badly it was difficult for the likes of Etherington and Jones to get a foothold in the game. Instead the main threat came from Delap`s throws as Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon struggled to hold on to anything fired into his box.
In general play Sunderland bossed the midfield and were in firm control, but their possession didn`t see them create any meaningful chances. Stoke applied pressure when they could but the closest they came was Pennant`s deflected shot from the edge of the box. So it was down to Delap to create the equaliser and he duly delivered.
His missile was headed up high in the air and Gordon again flapped at it, allowing Carew to tap in his first Stoke goal from as little as a yard out. Following this, the game sparked into life as Etherington became more dangerous and Whitehead bossed the midfield, but it was the promising Jordan Henderson who came close with his 20 yard shot forcing Begovic in to a smart save.
Despite it being a disappointing 45 from the Potters they went in at half-time at 1-1 and with stern words from Pulis, we expected a positive performance in the 2nd half.
However, City were immediately on the back foot as a swift counter attack saw Gyan notch his 3rd goal against Stoke in 2 games, with help from some more bad defending. A long ball upfield left Gyan with only Huth to beat, but while the German seemed in control the striker out muscled him and fired low under Begovic into the far corner.
This knocked the wind out of our sails as Sunderland looked like scoring every time they crossed the half way line. Pulis reacted by sending on Jon Walters as part of three pronged attack with the energetic Carew and the ineffective Jones. But it was Delap who came closest when he leathered a Corner rebound full in Bardsley`s chest, which saved the Blackcats as it seemed destined to burst the net.
Sunderland was resolute at the back despite Pulis`s men throwing the kitchen sink at them. Corner after corner and Delap throw after Delap throw produced nothing but half chances. But Huth was still willing to have a go as he twice blazed high and wide. Pennant`s scuffed corner managed to negotiate itself past every City and Sunderland player, while Walters clever flick header from Carew`s cross was well wide.
You felt that a goal was coming as the Potters upped the anti and it finally did with ten minutes to go. A free kick was awarded on the corner of the box, and Pulis explained exactly what he wanted to happen to Pennant. The former Liverpool winger executed it perfectly as Carew just beat the keeper to the ball and he headed it off Huth and into the net. The German was awarded with his 6th of the season, but he wasn`t done yet.
Carew and Jones were becoming much more difficult to handle, with the former being the best Stoke player by quite a margin. And in the dying minutes of added time we finally knocked down the door and won the game. Again Pennant delivered a fine cross from the left, and all but Huth missed as the centre back slid in at the back post to force it over the line for a dramatic winner. Stoke had got out of jail, and the win and three points takes them to 9th in the league.
Next up is an away game at Birmingham, before an FA Cup home tie with Brighton.