Monday, 4 April 2011

Stoke City: An Apology

Yes, I'm waiting for the national media, my readers and my friends to apologise for the abuse heaped on my football team all season.

This weekend's match against Chelsea was scintillating. The BBC called it a 'showcase for the Premiership', amongst many other garlands. Rather than kicking the opposition off the field and scoring from Rory's freakishly long throws, Stoke played magnificent, exuberant and stylish football. It truly was like watching Brazil (and not the mercenary Brazil scum who played recently in Grozny (Chechnya) at the behest of its insane dictator).

 a thunderous contest, played out to din from the stands, and managers and players were in agreement that neither side had deserved to lose. 
there are few trickier trips in the top flight these days than a visit to the Britannia Stadium. In other circumstances, emerging with a point might have felt like a triumph.
 The home team were magnificent, Kenwyne Jones unsettling David Luiz and even John Terry and Jermaine Pennant and Etherington tormenting their markers.
"That second half was as well as we've played since I joined," said Etherington, who spoke to Terry at the final whistle. "He just said: 'You've been different class this season.' It was nice of him to say that."
These days Stoke, who are unbeaten at home this year, feel like an established top-flight force. Their FA Cup semi-final against Bolton at Wembley will offer them a focus, now that safety is within reach. They may require another win at least to be sure of staving off relegation, but their ability to compete with a revived Chelsea lineup was testament to the progress they have made this season. The power in their game is long established but there is also invention, trickery and even subtlety to their style when they build up a head of steam.
"If you've got Etherington, Pennant, Jones and [Jon] Walters, you've got four players who can play football," said the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis. "We caused [Chelsea] loads of problems. We get stigmatised at times, but that's not a problem for me."
Walters's goal – he embarrassed David Luiz on the touchline before teasing Michael Essien and finishing at Cech's near post – was wonderfully taken. Chelsea's response, Drogba thumping in the first league goal by any of their strikers since Fernando Torres made his debut, was just as impressive. Thereafter, the match was thrilling, even if it ended in a draw.

Roll on the FA Cup semi-final.

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