Writer: Sam Thompson
Date:Tuesday January 21 2014
18th Jan 15:00
Jason Puncheon scored the only goal as Crystal Palace moved off the bottom three and dragged Stoke well and truly into the relegation mix.
It was a big day for Palace manager Tony Pulis as he faced his former club for the first time since he left after ten very successful years in charge. He was given a fantastic reception from the travelling Stoke fans but that was about the only thing the travelling supporters had to cheer about during another dismal away display.
Pulis time after time ground out home wins during his time at the Britannia Stadium and he did exactly the same on Saturday but it was Stoke who were his victims this time around. The Potters controlled long spells of the first half but were unable to convert this dominance into meaningful chances.
Mark Hughes declared himself pleased with how his side controlled possession, ensuring they had the highest percentage of possession of any game away from the Britannia Stadium since Stoke arrived in the Premier League. The Potters could only muster one real chance in the first 45 minutes as Marc Wilson headed a Charlie Adam free kick towards the far corner but Speroni produced a brilliant save to deny the Irishman.
At half time you would have been excused for predicting a very dull goalless draw, as it looked very likely during a lackluster first period, however Puncheon had other ideas and he gave Palace the lead in the 51st minute. Pulis` side couldn`t find a single shot on target during the first half but they capitalised on some woeful defending from the visitors to get the crucial opening goal. Puncheon picked a loose pass from Assiadi in the penalty area and was allowed to wander into the box and curl into the far corner. Mark Hughes will be furious at the way his side conceded the goal so soon after the half time interval.
Once they had taken the lead Palace did what Pulis sides do best, they had 11 men behind the ball defended and scrapped for every loose ball. Stoke couldn`t and never looked like breaking down the home side. Charlie Adam was Stoke`s only real threat when he dragged wide with his right foot from the edge of the area and then smashed a 30 yard rasper inches wide of Speroni`s left hand post.
That was a close as the visitors came and they never looked like ruining Pulis big day with a late equaliser in fact it could have been more convincing for Palace had it not been for 4 magnificent saved from Jack Butland including a triple save which will certainly have caught the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson as makes his preparations for Brazil.
It was another very disappointing away performance from Stoke and the win moves Crystal Palace within just 2 points of Mark Hughes side. Any one of ten or eleven teams will be involved in the relegation scrap but another poor performance and the tough run of fixtures coming up will see a few Stoke fans looking nervously over their shoulders. The Potters must improve if they are to move away from that relegation zone and the lack of goals is still a major concern, things don`t get any easier for Sparky`s men as they face a daunting trip to Chelsea in the FA Cup followed by a massive 6 point clash at Sunderland on Wednesday night.
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Date:Tuesday January 21 2014
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