Writer: Tom Mckeon
Date:Sunday October 21 2012
20th October 2012
An impressive Stoke side were left to rue missed chances and poor defending in an entertaining game at Old Trafford yesterday.
The Potters started the game with great purpose, attacking their illustrious opponents and impressing throughout the opening half an hour especially, but defensive lapses proved costly as Stoke`s usually rugged defence was breached all too easily.
Stoke got off to a dream start after just ten minutes, with Wayne Rooney diverting Charlie Adam`s cross into his own net, on the 10th anniversary since his first premier league goal.
Despite being 1-0 up at Old Trafford, Stoke refused to retreat and amazingly could have doubled their lead soon after, as Adam was again causing problems, this time drilling a cross-shot towards De Gea which almost caught the Spanish keeper out.
Losing at home and looking rattled, Manchester United were in an unfamiliar position as the visitors continued to press forward, to the Potters fans` delight.
The classy N`Zonzi, a revelation since joining in the summer from Blackburn Rovers, burst forward and picked out Walters on the right, and the Irish international`s deep cross found Peter Crouch whose header was comfortably saved by De Gea.
Stoke were putting together some terrific moves on one of the grandest stages in world football, and could so easily have added another had De Gea not made a top class save from Walters after a clever dummy from Michael Kightly.
However, if you don`t take your chances against teams Like Manchester United, they will punish you, and that proved to be the case soon after.
Totally against the run of play, Van Persie`s stunning cross found Rooney who made no mistake from close-range with a smart header.
Reinvigorated by the equaliser, the hosts began to take control of the encounter and soon went in front.
Van Persie was given far too much space in the penalty area and he diverted Valencia`s low-cross into the net, with Shawcross and Huth left in no man`s land.
Stoke must have headed into the dressing room at half-time wondering how they were losing the game, and their misery was compounded after the restart as another United cross caused all sorts of problems and led to the hosts doubling their lead.
Rooney turned provider and it was Welbeck who took advantage this time, guiding his header beyond Begovic, and it now looked like Stoke were in danger of being blown away.
An unbelievable save from Begovic was needed to deny Jonny Evans` goal-bound header from another Rooney cross, and Shawcross and Cameron combined to stop Welbeck putting United 4-1 up soon after.
It now looked a case of how many United would score, not if Stoke could get back into the game, but the Potters had other ideas.
A brilliant piece of persistence and determination from Michael Kightly saw the wide-man ghost into the penalty area, beat Rio Ferdinand and fire a shot past De Gea in off the woodwork.
But just as Stoke looked like perhaps grabbing a historic equaliser - their usually outstanding defence again let in United to wrap up the three points as Shawcross` poor clearance fell to Rooney at the far post.
The England striker prodded the ball home, leaving Begovic with no chance, effectively putting the game beyond Stoke.
Pulis sacrificed Walters for Etherington late on and also brought on Michael Owen in the hope of a late lifeline, but it was not to be, despite a lovely piece of play from Owen which saw the striker`s effort blocked by Van Persie.
It was certainly another encouraging performance from Stoke, and if we`d have been as rock solid as we usually are at the back I have no doubt we`d have come away with at least a point - however losing at Old Trafford is always a given, and I`m sure we`ll come away from this performance with great confidence and optimism for the season ahead.
Stoke have a damn good team now, full of proper premier league footballers, and it's nice to see Pulis finally approaching games, especially against the top sides, in a positive and refreshing manner which is great to see.
But of course, performances like this will mean nothing if we don`t win against Sunderland at the Britannia next week…
The next few games will really shape our season, I really don't see any reason why we can't get top 10 this year but we have to start winning matches, starting next week.
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Date:Sunday October 21 2012
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