Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Monday April 18 2011
148 years of history was re-written yesterday because… STOKE ARE IN THE FA CUP FINAL! A 5-0 thumping of Bolton at Wembley yesterday means a Final with Manchester City awaits. The day could not have been better for Pulis`s side as they were 3-0 to the good inside 30 minutes thanks to Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones. The fans were in delirium, and Jon Walters added two further strikes after the break to pile the misery on Bolton. They didn`t turn up, Stoke did and were outstanding all over. No gaols from set-pieces may shut the critics up, but even if it doesn`t who cares?
Matthew Etherington was in world beating form and deservedly picked up the man-of-the-match award. Jones created havoc all afternoon and Glenn Whelan dictated the game throughout. An inch of sympathy does go towards Bolton and their supporters but in the end they didn`t turn up and were lucky not to get beat by more.
Tony Pulis named the same outfield 10 as he did at Spurs a week before, but Thomas Sorensen replaced Asmir Begovic in goal. That meant that Whelan kept his place in midfield, and Kenwyne Jones held off the challenge from John Carew, who sat on the bench.
It was a timid opening period from both sides as they adjusted to the size of the pitch, and arguably Bolton settled quickest as Elmander tested Sorensen from 20 yards, and Gary Cahill fired over from the edge of the box. Stoke were just as lively at the other end as the quick thinking Etherington supplied Walters with a through ball from a free-kick that the former Bolton player almost lifted over Jaaskelainen.
But minutes later Etherington broke the deadlock and sent the East end of Wembley into wild celebrations. Pennant and Walters combined well down the right hand side, and a rushed pass from Bolton`s Paul Robinson found Matty 20 yards out. Without even looking up, he hit a ferocious first time shot into the corner giving the keeper no chance. Two stunning goals in two games must be catching Fabio Capello`s eye.
The goal calmed the players down and then we couldn`t believe our eyes in the stands as Huth popped up to double the lead. Gary Cahill`s weak clearance from Andy Wilkinson`s cross found Huth lurking 20 yards out. His first time volley went straight in the corner and, although replays showed that the keeper should have done better, it was a superb strike from the Premier League`s highest scoring defender.
Bolton were shell shocked and were clueless in attack. Shawcross and Huth stifled every danger they posed, and Whelan was in excellent touch in the centre of midfield as he controlled the game. But when things looked like they couldn`t get any better, they did 3-0.
Pennant surged from his own half and slipped a clever ball through Cahill`s legs for Jones, who after steadying himself clipped the ball past the onrushing Jaaskelainen to make it 3-0.
At half-time us supporters couldn`t believe what we were seeing, nor could the Bolton ones who were massively frustrated with their side. But the game wasn`t yet won, as Bolton would surely pile men forward and just attack Stoke with everything they had.
They did for 5 minutes but as there pressure subsided Stoke grew stronger. Walters cross back across goal seemed to set-up Jones for a simple tap-in but he fluffed his lines and scuffed his effort wide. Jones then went close again as Jaaskelainen was found in no mans land, but Cahill`s super tackle prevented a fourth.
It was a party atmosphere in the stands as 34,000 belted out Delilah, and just seconds later the noise grew ten fold as Walters got his name on the score sheet. Bolton piled more men forward and this left them outnumbered at the back, Walters carried the ball over the half-way line to the edge of the box, before cutting inside Zat Knight and whipping a tremendous shot into the corner. It was another cracking goal.
All of a sudden half the Bolton fans left for the Tubes, leaving about 45,000 of the 75,000 supporters inside the ground left. For the ones that remained nothing could cheer them up, as Sorensen prevented Matty Taylor scoring with an excellent save to his left.
But then the Potters scored another cracker to seal their final berth and embarrass Owen Coyle`s side. Wilkinson found Jones who turned Robinson inside out before crossing low for Wilko who had continued his run. Unfortunately he stumbled at the crucial moment but the ball went straight to Walters who stabbed in his 11th of the season.
In Peter Coates words yesterday was the greatest day in the clubs history as records were broken and history re-written. We will be doing it all again though on May 14th against Manchester City, who will not be looking forward to playing us after seeing that. Can Stoke actually win the FA Cup? Do you know what I think we can!
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Date:Monday April 18 2011
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