Stalemate... Anything But
Manchester City head the race for fourth earning a 1-1 draw at Stoke`s Britannia stadium. Glenn Whelan had previously given the hosts the lead when his crisp shot evaded the grasp of fellow countryman Given. However, as the clock ticked and the City attacks continued Gareth Barry popped up for his second Premier League goal this season with a close range finish.
Alan Wiley has again launched himself into the limelight, facing major criticism, this time from Stoke Boss Tony Pulis. A match full of controversial moments had Wiley scratching his head far too often. The most debatable decision came deep into the 5 minutes added on when Wiley deemed Shawcross`s jump unfair after he netted an unlikely winner. Previously, Wiley had sent off Faye for his challenge on Adebayor, sparking scenes of disbelief.
Despite a well-earned point lifting City up to fourth, the point was greeted with greater disappointment than joy. If the stranglehold on the top four is to be broken a more consistent run of results, especially away from Eastlands, are desperately needed.
For the majority of the proceedings the home side out-battled and physically dominated their more illustrious opponents. The constant threat of set pieces, line-out throws and long balls was evident, Stoke created several heart-in-mouth moments with desperate last-ditch defending needed. The pitch became a battle-field with City the more likely to shirk the 50-50 challenge. Several early robust challenges were left unpunished as Stoke continued to press, bully and Harass City into defensive mistakes.
City were somewhat fortuitous to enter half-time level, but after evading the first half onslaught the cause for concern could fade with our chances increasing with more fluid play.
Wiley entered the pitch after 45 minutes unscathed and pleased with a professional 45 minutes. His afternoon was to dramatically change with every future decision barracked and criticised. City looked more urgent with Mancini clearly unimpressed after another poor 45 minutes of football. After Adebayor pounced on a loose Faye touch, Wiley and his officials stepped in. Faye manhandled and finally tripped the Togolese striker as he rampaged down the centre. Last man and clearly guilty, Wiley had no option but to dismiss the Defender.
Stoke felt aggrieved and City began to push. The tempo was much improved and the pendulum was swinging into City`s favour. Mancini, a quiet self-assured character showed deep passion and frustration on the touchline gasping at every wrong move, urging the City attack forward.
A hammer blow, against the run of play caused Mancini to shirk more than ever. The dependable Shay Given made a very rare mistake. After City failed to clear the ball, Whelan struck a right footed shot crisply across the turf. Given looked to grasp the ball with ease but was left shell-shocked as it slipped across the greasy turf into his bottom corner.
he Stoke faithful bellowed louder than ever as another remarkable scalp looked on course. City. "Typical City" looked to finally force the encounter and take the lead but were left bitterly disappointed with a Whelan goal.
Fortunately, a never say die attitude arose and Stoke were pinned back into their 18 yard box. The long ball was proving effective for both sides as City pumped several attacks into Sorenson`s danger area.
Again, it looked too little too late. Stoke were resistant and resolute as countless efforts proved frivolous. The clock looked to enter stoppage time and was ticking faster than ever. As Pulis and his side relaxed, Barry ceased his opportunity and snatched a late, dramatic equaliser. After a goal-mouth scramble, involving Barry hitting the post, the midfielder pounced on his rebound and slotted home.
Only City looked forward, Stoke were anxious, City feeling pulsated. More chances fell but nothing was materialising.
Public enemy no1 Wiley hit new heights in the 95th minute. Stoke looked dead and buried but were given a huge opportunity as the ball crossed the line for a throwing. Bad memories of Stoke`s equaliser hit home, Delap`s long throw again found the 6 yard box and an unmarked Shawcross headed home. The home fans were jubilant. However, Wiley struck, with his whistle to his mouth, he called Shawcross`s tackle unfair and awarded City an undeserved free-kick.
The match finished shortly after with a 1-1 score-line a fair reflection. City did leap into fourth spot but missed the opportunity of grasping 3 points. This draw can look a positive result however, if City capitalise and bridge a further gap between themselves and Liverpool with a weekend fixture at Eastlands in the offing.
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