Europa jinx is over

Date published: Thursday 15th December 2011 10:31

No hangover for Stoke

In the last blog I wrote about how the upcoming Blackburn Rovers encounter was Stoke’s first “must win” of the season.

Win and we’d be back around the top 10 in the Premier League; lose and we’d only be two points ahead of Steve Kean’s men.

Well what a response by the Potters.

Stoke eased to victory over Rovers, despite an appalling first half where possession stats surely read Stoke 20% Blackburn 10% Air 70%, 3-1. The must-win was won.

Following the victory, Stoke faced Dynamo Kiev at the Britannia Stadium requiring one point to guarantee progress into the final 32 of the Europa League. And, following a hard-fought and battling display, a late Kenwyne Jones goal coupled with a world class save from Asmir Begovic gave Stoke the required point and progress.

Up next was the inevitable post-European hangover away at Everton. Stoke fans sat and watched, and waiting for the fully expected 2-0 defeat. But not so. Stoke recorded a victory; an away victory; and a clean sheet – a rare, rare sight for the Potters’ travelling supporters. And it also put to bed the Europa League-hangover course. Arguably the best was yet to come.

Stoke City welcome a Tottenham Hotspur side who hadn’t lost since August and harbour ambitions of not only securing a Champions League spot, but perhaps mounting a title challenge.

The games between Stoke and Spurs since the Potters’ promotion have tended to be entertaining, lively games. Gareth Bale’s wonder volley last season; Matthew Etherington’s dribbling goal in a 3-2 at the White Hart Lane; the pulsating 2-1 in one of Juande Ramos’ games in charge.

controversy

This latest encounter was no less exciting and no less full of controversy. Stoke harried from the very first second and deservedly took the lead through ex-Spurs player Etherington. It was then Spurs’ turn to dominate – but again Stoke scored through their winger, thanks to a Ryan Shotton long throw – think Rory Delap but younger, faster, and talented with the ball at his feet.

Spurs pulled a goal back through an Adebayor penalty following Glenn Whelan’s very silly kick towards Modric. Spurs then barraged the Stoke goal. But that’s how it stayed. Stoke City 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1.

Chris Foy, the man in charge has come under a lot of flak since the match. Arguably Spurs should’ve had three or four penalties for a multitude of sins in the box, and had the rather unfortunate dismissal of Younes Kaboul thrown into the mix, along with an alleged Crouch hand-ball in the lead up to the opening goal and an Adebayor goal ruled out for offside despite being a good two yards on.

Ironically, Foy took charge of Stoke v Spurs last season when a Jon Walters header was cleared a good foot behind the line by Peter Crouch but no goal was given. These things even out they say. But in four meetings at the Britannia between the two sides, there has now been four red cards and four penalties given.

Meanwhile, Stoke find themselves up to 8th in the Premier League and into the next round of the Europa League with a tricky game to spare away at Besiktas – giving Pulis the perfect chance to rest key players ahead of a very winnable trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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