Peter Crouch`s 100th and 101st league goals were enough to succumb Blackburn to their 8th home league defeat of the season.
The victory, Stoke`s 5th straight win over Blackburn, sees Stoke cement their 8th place position and close in on 7th place Newcastle. The defeat for Blackburn leaves them 3 points adrift of safety at 19th.
Stoke made 4 changes from the draw at the Britannia Stadium at the weekend. Jonathan Woodgate and the newly fit Glenn Whelan replaced the injured duo; Andy Wilkinson and Wilson Palacios who couldn`t shake off knocks. Dean Whitehead and Ryan Shotton came in for Jermaine Pennant and Rory Delap who both dropped to the bench.
After being buoyed by two good results over Liverpool and Manchester United, Blackburn started the strongest and nearly took the lead as a Mortem Gamst Pedersen saw Thomas Sorensen stray from his goal and flap at a cross which was met by towering centre half Christopher Samba who rattled the bar with his effort.
Another corner followed, once again taken by Pedersen, saw Samba hit the back of the net after wriggling out of the grasp of Ryan Shawcross and power a header into an empty Stoke net. Referee Lee Mason had already blown his whistle though, and the goal was chalked off. Nigerian international Yakubu had adjudged to have impeded Danish stopper Sorensen, with replays showing that in fact the striker had locked Sorensen`s arm.
It was Stoke who made the breakthrough as Dean Whitehead deliciously chipped the ball into the box as Peter Crouch outmuscled Christopher Samba and got the ball to stick to his chest and calmly slot home a half volley into the bottom corner, out of the reach of Mark Bunn. Queue the 100th goal celebration, or as Peter Crouch likes to call it the “001” celebration. Joking apart, it was a tremendous finish from the beanpole striker. Blackburn 0-1 Stoke
Crouch almost instantly made it 101, as Sorensen`s long goal kick was knocked into the path of Crouch from Ryan Shotton, who then tries an audacious volley from 25 yards which saw Mark Bunn scramble to his right to deny the former England international.
Blackburn gave Stoke some of their own medicine as they searched for an equaliser as they bombarded Stoke`s box with long throws and corners. One of which gave Stoke`s Danish goalkeeper problems again but Woodgate was on hand to clear the danger.
Yet another Blackburn chance goes begging as the Blackburn captain Samba wins the ball in the air and tees up Yakubu who swivels in the box but can only put his effort wide.
After soaking up the pressure, Stoke made it 2-0, and Crouch earned his 101st just on the stroke of half time. Matthew Etherington picked up the ball and began to trek down the left flank like I`ve been crying for him to do all season. After a lucky deflection to get around his man, Etherington ran 60 yards and whipped in an inch perfect cross for Crouch, who yet again outmuscled his marker, this time youngster Henley; and then calmly knees the ball down and smashes the ball into the roof of the Blackburn net with his weaker foot. Blackburn 0-2 Stoke
With that came the half time whistle and a chorus of boos from the Ewood Park faithful.
After a drab start to the second half Crouch nearly completed his hat trick as he managed to come in from the right wing for only his shot to drift wide of the far post after some neat footwork from the striker.
Steve Kean tried to reignite proceedings and brought on David Goodwillie for Petrovic. The introduction paid dividends not long after as some good work from Pedersen on the wing, he won a corner, and with that the heavens opened with a downpour of sleet. From the resulting corner, Blackburn dragged their way back into the game. Hanley met Pedersen`s corner for only Goodwillie to stop his goal bound effort and after a little pinball, Goodwillie flicked the ball home inside the 6 yard box. Goodwillie`s first goal in England struck in the 69th minute. The comedy writes itself ladies and gentlemen. Blackburn 1-2 Stoke Game on.
Blackburn sensed blood and continued to pressure Stoke. Another Pedersen long throw caused problems in the Stoke penalty area as Samba dominated in the air once again and the ball fell to Yakubu inside the 6 yard box only for Woodgate to block Yakubu`s instinctive strike on the line.
Tony Pulis decides it was time to shut up shop and brought on Delap for Whelan and Jerome for Etherington.
It was not only the Blackburn fans that were getting Steve Kean down, as Pedersen goes in with a 50/50 with Delap, but he couldn`t stop himself skidding on the slippery surface and took Kean`s legs from underneath him. Most probably the biggest cheer from the Blackburn faithful rang out.
Pulis` last throw of the dice to keep the points was to replace Whitehead with Salif Diao and soon after his arrival, the final whistle was heard at Ewood Park.
Sorensen, Woodgate, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Shotton, Whelan (Delap) Whitehead (Diao) Etherington (Jerome) Crouch, Walters