Goodbye 2010, hello 2011 and welcome 3 points! Fireworks were let off, both in the sky last night and at the players after Fulham. But it resulted in the New Year bringing in three cracking points against an Everton side for the first time in 29 years.
Fulham earlier on this week brought about the second consecutive home defeat, but Pulis wasn`t prepared to let today’s match display the same lacklustre performance, which had no real creative spark last time. Whatever Tony did or said, the team came out with the determination that had been missed recently, and came out to grab all three points deservedly.
Stoke have now shot back to 8th place in the table, tarnishing the Toffees good recent away record and the unbeaten record they had against us.
Going into this match today Tony was forced to make at least one change due to Robert Huth`s suspension. In came Danny Higginbotham, along with Ricardo Fuller for Jon Walters as he was dropped to the bench.
Very early on into the match saw a penalty shout for Everton. Ryan Shawcross stuck out a foot which tripped over Louis Saha in the area. Arms were up from the blue side, but man in black Andre Marriner shook his head and waved play on. Sigh of relief for the red and white side.
First chance fell for Stoke as their instant momentum was alight with determination. A typical Rory Delap long throw whooshed in like a rocket, and Kenwyne Jones got up to flick it towards Fuller. But American Tim Howard was in the right place to clutch the ball in his arms.
The biggest heart stopping opportunity came in the 10th minute when Jones flicked on a Begovic kick to Fuller. Distin was hot on Fuller`s tale so cleverly Fuller headed behind past Distin to open up the space for himself. All he needed to do was beat Howard, but Fuller shot it wide of the post. Very unlike him, as an on form Ricardo would of buried that from such a glorious position.
Collins lunged in on Coleman and got booked for it without hesitation from the ref. It riled Stoke supporters, but fired up the Everton team to take some control.
But it fell to the other foot though when Stoke edged in front with a towering Kenwyne Jones header. Mathew Etherington skipped passed two challenges before whipping in a dangerous cross. Jones, with a humongous jump, got on the end of it to put it past Howard into the far corner of the goal.
Acrobatic celebrations just showed how much that goal meant to Jones, and I certainly would have done it if I could.
Everton were shocked, but not knocked, as they almost had an immediate response. Cahill flicked the ball through to Saha but his shot didn`t threaten whatsoever.
Cahill had a go himself later, as a free header from a Baines cross saw the ball flash across the face of goal. Positive build up, but a poor finish, not that the Stoke City defence cared.
The ref had a massive decision to make when Begovic caused a headache. The Bosnian sprinted out of his area to take down an ever approaching Saha. Asmir did get to the ball first, as the replays clearly show, but the ref didn`t get a clear view and pointed for a foul. Only a yellow card emerged from his pocket thankfully.
Everton had one last opportunity, seconds before the break. A good counter gave Pienaar the chance to score, but Higginbotham flew in for a frantic block.
Half time and it was a positive first half for Stoke. Although Everton threatened, we dealt with it and came out on top. The only disappointment was not being in front with at least another goal, especially with the chances created.
Stoke needed to come out for the second half ready for a further battle, and Pulis would of happily reminded them of that. After all, the game was not over yet and if Stoke got complacent, they would have been in danger of conceding.
Rory Delap chased down Baines who was a part of a counter attack heading for goal. He slid in, but his timing was late, and a yellow card came out the pocket. No questions asked.
Stoke`s first substitution was a warmly welcomed Tuncay, who replaced new signing Jermaine Pennant. Pennant had a good game and has been consistent with his performances of late, but a fresh pair of legs, and interesting hairdo, was needed to keep Everton on their toes.
Goal! Stoke scored their second to possibly put the Toffees out of the match! But it wasn`t us who scored. Jagielka put it in his own net on the 69th minute. Jones headed on a long free-kick towards Fuller. Jagielka tried to deal with the big Jamaican, so while holding Fuller off he attempted to get the ball out of danger. Anywhere would of done… apart from looping it up and under the crossbar behind Howard. Whoops! Oh well nevermind, oh and Jagielka, you`re welcome to come to The Brit anytime.
Everton were even more shocked, but still not knocked as they regained their drive create chances.
But it was Stoke who could have had another goal. Fuller dinked the ball up in the air when two defenders had a breakdown of communication and both went in, which gave Fuller running space behind them. With only the American Howard standing in his way, we all thought this is it! But we thought wrong. Fuller tried to tease and confuse the ‘keeper with a step over, only to lose balance and give time for the defenders to catch up. The ball was cleared, and another opportunity wasted for Ricardo.
A frustrated Fuller was subbed for Jon Walters. You could tell he was not happy with himself, especially as he took it out on a poor unsuspecting water bottle on the touch line. It was actually his best shot of the game!
Stoke saw out the last 4 added minutes with a solid defensive display, and when the final whistle was blown, the whole ground roared with delight. A great win and a perfect bounce back from the last two home results. Also a great start to this year. Well done lads, well deserved.
1 Begovic, 28 Wilkinson, 5 Collins, 17 Shawcross, 3 Higginbotham, 16 Pennant, 18 Whitehead, 24 Delap, 26 Etherington, 10 Fuller, 9 Jones.
Subs: 20 Tuncay (for Pennant,59), 6 Whelan (for Etherington,80), 19 Walters (for Fuller,84).
Not used: 29 Sorensen, 7 Gudjohnsen, 12 Wilson, 25 Faye.
24 Howard, 18 Neville, 3 Baines, 6 Jagielka, 15 Distin, 23 Coleman, 25 Fellaini, 17 Cahill, 10 Arteta, 20 Pienaar, 8 Saha.
Subs: 28 Anichebe (for Neville,66), 21 Osman (for Arteta,66), 16 Beckford (for Saha,80).
Not used: 1 Mucha, 2 Hibbert, 7 Bilyaletdinov, 26 Rodwell.