Apologies for this being a tad late, but you must forgive me as I`ve been busily crying into the slab of humble pie I`ve unwilling shovelled into my sore, swollen throat. Let me be the five thousandth person to question our poor performance against a team that we could have potentially made suffer once more; WHAT THE FFFF… HAPPENED?????
Let`s start off by reliving the day to forget in this match report that`ll surely prove to be one of the toughest I`ve ever had to write.
Tony Pulis made seven changes to his red and white side that defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 on Thursday`s Israeli down-pour, with the likes of Asmir Begovic, Andy Wilkinson, Jonathan Woodgate, Glen Whelan, Rory Delap, Jermaine Pennant and Cameron Jerome returning to the starting line-up.
It seemed that Pulis was determined to grab three points by placing Jon Walters on the wing with Jerome and Peter Crouch up front in a somewhat attacking minded selection. This decision was forced by an unfit Mathew Etherington who didn`t make it to the bench.
Within 2 minutes of kick-off, Bolton scored the first GOAL in what was a completely ridiculous one for us to concede. Referee Howard Webb ruled that Begovic has picked up a passback in the area and awarded a free-kick, but Pulis was adamant that Whelan had sliced a clearance which is why the Bosnian international goalkeeper had picked up the ball. No matter how strong the protests where, the free-kick was the decision made and Ivan Klasnic thought on his feet to take the ball out of Begovic`s hands, who was still protesting. Klasnic took the kick quickly catching Begovic way out of position, only for Kevin Davies to pop up from the left to score perhaps the most easiest goal he`ll ever score.
Tony Pulis was enraged and unleashed holy hell on the officials, as you could well imagine and expect.
Pennant looked as lively as ever down the right flank as he raced down and whipped in a dangerous cross to try and find Crouch. Crouch clumsily got on the end of the low ball to get it aiming forwards, but the scuffed shot hit Gary Cahill before Jaaskelainen pushed the effort away.
Stoke were throw back after gifting the Trotters with a goal, and twenty minutes later things went from bad to worse as a second GOAL was conceded. The ball was passed back to Begovic by Huth under pressure, forcing the ‘keeper to scramble out of his goal to clear in what was more suicidal defending by Stoke. He slips as he follows through with his kick, and Chris Eagels makes a sublime touch to control the ball at his feet. Sure enough, Eagles let rip a shot on target from 20 yards out, taking advantage of an open goal, and the ball fires into the far corner despite Begovic`s efforts to sprit back.
Eagles was on form for Bolton as he and his side were determined to find the killer blow for the Potters. He whipped in a dangerous ball and found the head of a rising Kevin Davies. Luckily for us, at this point at least, his header didn`t have enough power behind it so the ball flashed wide, much to the relief of Stokies who made the trip.
The Potters were close to getting themselves one back when Robert Huth`s free-kick found Walters at the back post. Just before the half time whistle, Walters got up to head it goalwards but Jaaskelainen was there to deny a potentially crucial goal. It ran across the line before the Bolton defence managed to hoof it clear from danger.
Half time saw Bolton lead Stoke 2-0 and it was shaping up to be a match that we couldn`t fit into. Passing precision was minimal and Bolton ran rings round us, but we had a couple of chances to claw one or two back. After such an abysmal start, Pulis had some work to do and some wobblers to throw in the dressing room.
The second half got underway and it was Stoke to frighten the whites; Walters` crossed into the area where an awaiting Cameron Jerome glanced a header just wide of the far post. This was encouraging at least as the fans needed to see their team make an early response.
Moments later Begovic contributed to redeeming himself. He brilliantly slid in on Fabrice Muamba and block his shot, who did well himself to shake off the pressure from the Stoke defence and find space.
The trademark Rory Delap throws weren`t too troubling for Bolton so far in the game, until the 56th minute. A rocket ball raced in, and a moustache donning Huth put in a powerful header, but heroics from Mark Davis saw him clear the ball off the line and out for a corner after leaping into the air. This was better from Stoke and the confidence was building.
Despite Stoke slowing creeping into the game and finally finding their feet, the killer blow was found by Bolton as Klasnic buries the third GOAL. Eagles the instigator put a through ball to Paul Robinson on the overlap, he fed the ball to Klasnic on the edge of the box and a shot on target was made. Begovic got a hand to it at full stretch, but the pace of the ball was too much to handle and the ball ricocheted off the post and in the net.
Jonathan Woodgate blocked a Mark Davies effort as Bolton fans cried for more goals to reap revenge from the FA Cup Semi-Final, and they were heard loud and clear as on the 73rd minute, Eagles scored the forth GOAL. Kevin Davies flicked the ball after letting it bounce to Klasnic who in turn neatly plays it through to Eagles. Begovic tries to close him down and narrow the angle, but a racing Eagles wasn`t miffed and slid it passed him with no trouble.
Bolton fans were now lifting the roof off the Reebok as they wanted that all important 5th goal to satisfy the craving to crush Stoke. Potters fans meanwhile looked bewildered as the curse of the Europa League travels seemed to strike again.
Anticipation of a 5th goal was felt by both sets of fans, and sure enough, ‘that` GOAL came. David Wheater on 82 minutes got up to head the ball on target from a corner, but it was Klasnic that steamrollered in adjusted the direction of the ball slightly to head it past a wrong-footed Begovic.
This was probably the most embarrassing moment for all of us, but for one particular Stoke fan it was worse than you can imagine. This moment for him was when he had to sheepishly retract a banner he had presumably made saying: “Stoke 5 – Bolton 0”. It seems that perhaps this numpty tempted fait and must have folded his banner up with a very red face.
Begovic saved us from more embarrassment as Muamba was put in by Eagles and free to fire, but the Bosnian was there to block for a corner.
Boos and jibes were directed at Tuncay from the away end as he replaced Klasnic on 85 minutes. The Turk almost scored too, but his outstretching leg wasn`t long enough to toe-poke it goalwards from impressive youngster Joe Riley`s cross across the box. If he did connect with it to put a sixth past Asmir, then I think I would have put a paper bag over my head and worn it for the rest of the week.
Final whistle and the crippling task of writing this is finally over. I can`t go on any longer, so please let me sit in the corner and rock for five hours.
Jaaskelainen, Riley(Knight, 90) Cahill, Wheater, Robinson, M Davies, Reo-Coker (Pratley, 89), Muamba, Eagles, K Davies, Klasnic. (Tuncay, 85)
Subs: Bogdan, Petrov, Ngog, Kakuta.
Begovic, Huth, Woodgate, Upson, Wilkinson(Higginbotham 69), Pennant (Jones, 69), Delap, Whelan (Whitehead, 69) Walters,Jerome, Crouch.
Subs: Sorensen, Diao, Shotton, Palacios.