A last-minute goal from Ryan Shotton stole all three points for Stoke at the Hawthorns in an otherwise uneventful encounter.
A huge blunder by former Stoke keeper Ben Foster left Shotton with a gaping goal to aim at – and the make-shift striker made no mistake in slotting the ball into the back net in front of the Stoke fans, sending them into a delirium.
The Baggies, despite two defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea previously, remained optimistic of a win after last years assured performance at the Britannia Stadium – but the Potters ensured an impressive start to the season continued, breaking the deadlock late on as the game looked certain to end in a draw.
The Potters have now won 20 of the last 29 meetings between the two clubs, with the Baggies coming away victorious just TWICE.
The game lacked quality but Stoke’s defensive exploits were again put to the test by a West Brom team desperate to impress in front of their home crowd.
An even first half brought few chances for both teams but warning sirens were clearly ringing early on for Stoke, with Chris Brunt going dangerously close in the opening stages with a glancing header.
However, the Potters also showed ambition going forward, a clever flick on from Kenwyne Jones nearly found the feet Jon Walters, but Ben Foster rushed out of his goal and cleverly snuffed out the situation.
Despite Stoke’s attempts of gaining a foot-hold in the match, West Brom were on the attack again; a magnificent save from the ever-reliable Asmir Begovic from a point-blank Shane Long header kept Stoke’s heads above water.
The Bosnian has been fantastic for Stoke since joining from Portsmouth & he had to be at his best to deny Long – the Irishmen connecting with a header from a fine Tchoyi cross.
Tchoyi continued to cause Stoke plenty of problems, dragging centre-halves out wide with his unpredictable play and giving the likes of Huth & Wilson plenty to think about.
The Baggies were soon sensing a break-through as Nicky Shorey’s cross was half-cleared, but the impressive Mulumbu failed to keep his effort down as he skied the ball into the Stoke fans behind the goal.
Tchoyi was once again Stoke’s tormenter as the Cameroon-man fooled Wilson into fouling him just outside of the area – but Brunt’s resulting free-kick was disappointing, the Northern Ireland star dragging the ball high & wide of Begovic’s goal.
As the Potters finally started to settle, Marc Wilson pulled up with a hamstring injury, meaning his replacement Andy Wilkinson took Robert Huth’s place at right back, the German was now faced with the task of playing in his even more unfavoured position of left back.
Huth was still getting to grips with his surroundings when a Chris Brunt cross was casually chested by him towards Begovic – Shane Long was lurking but Stoke’s keeper managed to get in front of the striker.
The only genuine Stoke chance of the first-half came on the stroke of half-time, Etherington broke free of Stephen Reid’s advances before powering into the penalty area and lifting a cross towards Jermaine Pennant who directed his header wide of the goal.
The half-time whistle came and Stoke re-emerged from the break revitalised.
Glenn Whelan continued on from his impressive performance against FC Thun on Thursday, the Ireland midfielder ghosted into the penalty area, recieving the ball after intelligent link-up play from Pennant and Walters, but his improvised effort fell just shy of Foster’s left hand post as the Potters looked to gain an advantage.
Stoke certainly started the half brighter and their possession continued as the Baggies seemed more and more content in letting the Potters have the ball.
West Brom’s patient approach was nearly rewarded moments later though as the ball fell to Tchoyi, who unleashed a belting volley which probably would’ve bust the net if it were on target – but it flew harmlessly(or not so if you were behind the goal) into the stands.
Etherington and Pennant were struggling to make much of an impact on the game and Danny Pugh and Ryan Shotton replaced the two star men who were looking increasingly tired.
As the end was nigh, the game became stretched as both teams threw caution to the wind in an effort to snatch the points.
West Brom had won three successive corners and Begovic was again tested from close range as Mulumbu struck a shot straight down his throat.
As injury-time came, both teams seemed rather happy with the point and looked to play the game out.
But what came next was quite simply, unbelievable.
A long, hopefully punt by Jon Walters saw West Brom keeper Ben Foster scamper out of his goal, it looked for all of the world that the former Man United keeper would simply pick the ball up but Shotton’s pressure caused Foster to hesitate and the local-lad nipped in to steal the ball and stroke the ball into an empty net – the 22-year-old looked equally shocked as he was delighted as he ran towards the ecstatic Stokies who were wildly celebrating an unlikely and terrific win.
Asmir Begovic 8
A stunning reflex-save from Shane Long’s close-range header kept Stoke in with a shout, clever punches and commanding play inside the area as well as some tidy saves gave Stoke the platform to win the match.
Robert Huth 7
Had a tough time in the first half as Tchoyi toyed with him, he was also forced to play at left back for a large part of the game but the German cope well – being a fantastic defender helps though and I personally don’t want to be seeing him at left back again anytime soon
Ryan Shawcross 7
The skipper dealt with West Brom’s threat well, another assured performance, his distribution was wayward at times but another clean sheet marshalled by this man means he can’t be criticised with any justification.
Jonathan Woodgate 7
Struggled in the air in the opening stages but settled in well and will be delighted to get through another 90 minutes in a Stoke shirt.
Marc Wilson 7
A lot has been said about Tony Pulis’ approach of playing centre-backs at full back but Wilson has always been a shoe-in for me. Today he looked rather comfortable and defended well, he had to be replaced late in the first half with a hamstring injury though, lets hope it’s just a slight pull.
Matthew Etherington 6
Etherington worked hard and got through West Brom’s defensive lines on a couple of occasions today but was otherwise largely average for a player of his ability. Tired in the second half and was replaced by Danny Pugh, who worked as hard as ever.
Glenn Whelan 7
He was being dominated at times by Mulumbu but his display coincided with plenty of clever touches and he was unlucky not to score himself with an improvised effort which just found the wrong side of the post.
Dean Whitehead 7
He’s one of those players who rarely lets you down, gave the ball away on a couple of occasions in the first half but played his part in the second.
Jermaine Pennant 6
Struggled to make an impact in a difficult game as he found himself being pushed back by Nicky Shorey in the first half. He still remaining a huge threat, but wasn’t able to produce his peformance against Thun and was replaced for the same reason as Etherington was – looked progressively leggy as the game wore on.
Kenwyne Jones 6
Not his best game in a Stoke shirt, was kept at arm’s length by WBA for much of the game but he’s always a threat, purely because of his physique. Won headers and tried to get Stoke going in the attacking sense but found it tough against Olsson and looked rather isolated.
Jon Walters 7
You can’t give this guy below a 7 because he always works so hard for the team and I suppose we can give him the assist for the Shotton goal?
Ryan Shotton 8
Scored a last-minute winner, AGAIN. 8 purely for impact.
Surely it won’t be long before Liverpool are offering us £35 million for his services? He is English after all…
Andy Wilkinson 7
Another commendable performance from Wilko, was superb against FC Thun on Thursday and slotted in very well at right back today as he replaced Marc Wilson. Snuffed out most of what West Brom had to offer in a typical, no-nonsense manner.