Swans Elegant But Crouch Magnificent
The Britannia Stadium
29th September - 15:00
After arguably the toughest start to a Premier League campaign, the Potters faced a Swansea side that visited the Britannia Stadium, along with an army of quietly confident Stoke fans who were craving for a victory.
Boss Tony Pulis decided to stick to a 4-5-1 formation; his tactic unchanged from the narrow defeat to Chelsea. He knew that today was an important game, and after seeing how well this combination of tactics and players performed last time out, he was keen on not fixing that which was not broken.
Swansea kicked off the game with a lot of tippy-tappy carpet football, and completely dominated the possession percentage by 100% for at least five minutes! Funnily enough, 100% of their spell of dominance never left the midfield area.
Stoke soon got their studs into the ground as their physical force, not to mention height advantage, proved to be a nightmare for the little Swans. However, new to this season, quality in passing and trickery was evident in their play and very warmly welcomed by the shivering supporters.
Surely enough, after 11 minutes, England call-up contender Peter Crouch rose to the challenge to beat his marker and head the ball home for the first GOAL. Take notes 'Woy'!
Stoke were on the front foot, and Charlie Adam was one of the many pairs of feet that were causing trouble for the Swansea defence. He flighted in a cross which forced the defenders to head behind for a corner, although it came to nothing.
Jon Walters was showing signs that he was back on top form as his presence in the attack was feared. His marvellous effort at goal from some way out dipped at the last, making it very awkward for 'keeper Michel Vorm to adjust. Somehow however, he managed to parry the ball, but only just as it spun along the line and out for a corner.
Glenn Whelan stepped up to take the corner on the left-hand-side; his curling cross seemingly headed towards Robert Huth, which left space for an unmarked Crouch to head it towards goal, but his header narrowly flashed over the bar.
Ryan Shawcross was tested to the limit as he fought off Danny Graham after he latched onto a misplaced back-pass. He fired well wide when he approached the box, but blamed a supposed shirt tugging Shawcross, however the ref wasn't having any of it.
Adam was taking matters into his own hands when presented with an opportunity or two, but the excitement of a first goal for Stoke got the better of him as he fired high over the bar on a couple of occasions.
Michu almost tasted a goal to narrow the deficit after he raced towards the area and sweetly struck a bullet effort, but to Begovic's relief, the ball flashed narrowly wide of the far post.
Stoke were playing some good football with some slick movement and tasty trickery. The fans were applauding in appreciation of this newly evolved style that's bringing a lot of encouragement and anticipation in and around the ground.
Adam cleverly back-heeled to an awaiting Geoff Cameron who struck first time, but the shot was blocked before the speed of the ball tested Vorm at the bottom of his near post.
Crouch found the ball at his feet, and with goal in his sights, he unleashed a shot! Vorm got a hand to it to parry, but it wasn't a strong enough hand as the ball bobbled in front of an unmarked Crouch who followed through to slot the ball in the net for his second GOAL.
Half time and what a half it had been for Stoke. Some great football and some clinical finishing by Crouch put Stoke on top and the Swan's manager was spitting feathers.
Second half kicked off with fans wanting a larger goal tally, but it seemed that a more defence approach was more likely.
Swansea sent a warning message in the form of Ki Sung-Yang. His powerful effort was deflected just over Begovic's bar which suggested that the game was far from over yet.
Stoke had lost their momentum slightly as Swansea were eager to utilise their spells of possession more, but Adam was still leading the threats.
The game also lost it's entertainment factor slightly as the minutes ticked away, however things hotted up when Swansea had a corner. Gramham was the target at the far post, and all alone, he had the time to bring the ball down and shoot at goal, but he got too much under the ball and scooped it over, much to the sarcastic jeers from Stoke fans.
Fine play by Adam on the left then allowed the Scotsman to drill low and hard, but Kightly couldn't control his attempt at goal under pressure.
Stoke had a chance for a third, but an unselfish Steven N'Zonzi left the ball for Michael Kightly was burst towards the box with blistering pace. But his shot didn't match the quality of his run and it was a wasted opporuntiy.
Matty Etherington almost became the impact-sub as his tantalising cross encouraged Crouch to get up for the header, but it cannoned back off the crossbar to deny him his hat-trick!
Crouch later tried the spectacular when he attempted a scissor-kick, and my what a hat-trick that would have been if he connected properly, but he missed completely. The intent was there, just not quite the execution
Final whistle blew and a good result for Stoke see their first 3-pointer of the season. Crouch was outstanding, but all thanks to Adam in the heart of midfield