Stoke serve up record win
Stoke rounded off an amazing week by destroying Newcastle 4-0 to ease their relegation fear and once again build up a gap to the bottom three. The Potters were superb and goals from Jon Walters, Jermaine Pennant, Danny Higginbotham and Ricardo Fuller gave the hosts their biggest ever Premier League win.
Tony Pulis made just one change from the team that beat West Ham in the FA Cup last week, with Asmir Begovic returning between the sticks in place of Thomas Sorensen. Pulis decided to retain the ten outfield players, which surprisingly included Glenn Whelan in central midfield. Starting for Newcastle was Shola Ameobi, who Stoke had on loan a couple of seasons ago rather unsuccessfully.
The game had a slow pace to it in the opening stages as Stoke`s long ball tactics were comfortably dealt with by Newcastle. Sol Campbell, making a rare start, and Kenwyne Jones were regularly locked in an intense aerial battle in which the former England defender won more often than not. With the visitors marking both Stoke wingers, the hosts found it difficult to carve open chances in open play. However the set-pieces were put to good use and Pennant`s corner found Marc Wilson in space 12 yards out but he guided his header inches wide of the top corner.
At the other end Ameobi was keeping both central defenders of Huth and Shawcross on their toes, and it was he who had the first shot on target but it lacked the power to trouble Begovic. The game needed a goal to bring it to life and just before the half hour Stoke got their noses in front and in some style.
Delap played an acute ball to Shawcross in the penalty area and he sensibly laid it off for Pennant. The winger then whipped in a delightful cross for Walters at the near post and he glanced his header past Steve Harper in the Newcastle goal.
It was a super goal from Stoke, which would have had even Arsenal fans standing up in appreciation. In Carew`s absence and Jones poor form, Walters is proving himself handy in front of goal, with that being his 8th of the season.
The game subsequently opened up and Newcastle spent the remainder of the half on the front foot, as they forced several saves from Begovic. Ameobi had one goal bound effort blocked by the face of Higginbotham, before Begovic made an impressive one handed save to stop Nolan`s shot. Then, the Bosnian produced a heart stopping save just before the break as he clawed away Ferguson`s dipping volley that looked certain to finish in the net.
It was a scrappy first half, and Newcastle would have felt hard done by going in at 1-0 down. But the Potters second half performance blew the Magpies out of the air.
Just seconds in to the second half and the Potters scored a decisive second goal brought upon by sloppy defending. 'Keeper Harper failed to clear the ball when under pressure from Jones, who retrieved the goalies scuffed clearance. He set-up Etherington who`s cross fell nicely at the far post for Jermaine Pennant to turn it in to the corner. It was a simple finish but a momentous one as that was Pennant`s first goal for the club. It also gave us some breathing space as it was difficult to see Newcastle coming back from two down.
The crowd and the momentum were fully behind Pulis`s men and they added a third just minutes later. Jones held the ball up excellently on the edge of the Magpies box and won Stoke a free-kick 20 yards out. It was in an identical position to Higginbotham`s winner against West Ham on Sunday, and the former Man Utd player duly obliged again.
This time his left foot made an even sweeter connection and it flew past Harper before he could even react, wrapping up the points just minutes into the second half. Stoke were magnificent and Newcastle had no answer to the onslaught.
With the scoreline at 3-0 the players could relax a little and for a strong 20 minute period Pulis was more then happy to let Newcastle dominate possession. We were left playing on the counter attack, and with Walters giving his best ever Stoke performance, there was every chance more goals could be added.
Shawcross and Huth remained strong at the back, although Begovic had to made another smart save to prevent Ferguson again. Pugh and Whitehead were drafted on for Etherington and Pennant who deserved a rest for their efforts over the past 6 days.
For Stoke to round off the most perfect of weeks, they would surely have to record their record Premier League win by adding a fourth goal.
And, of course, they did.
Just after being ticked off for a scuffle with Joey Barton, Walters flicked on a high Begovic ball for sub Fuller who was clear through on goal with just Harper to beat. Ric showed super confidence to crash his half volley low past Harper first time to spark euphoric celebrations.
First an FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley and now a record 4-0 Premier League win. What a week!
Next up for the Potters is a fascinating game with champions Chelsea, who will be rolling in to town in two weeks after the international break. Stoke now sit 12th, 5 points clear of the relegation zone.