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Stoke City 1 - Manchester City 1

The Britannia Stadium

Sat 24th March 2012 5.30 PM

Attendance: 27,535

City Only Manage Draw With Stoke Bully Boys

City would return to the top of the League on points should they win the late kick off at Stoke. This would be no easy task however as the team would have to accomplish something they have never done in the Premier League era…..win at Stoke. However this season`s City are a far different prospect to even the team of last season, and in the reverse fixture, City won comfortably without Joe Hart having to face a single shot in the entire 90 minutes. If the Stoke fans were hoping for goals they were likely to see them as top shots on target (City with 188) faced bottom (Stoke with 72), but the goals were likely to be against, not for them.

Mancini once again faced the prospect of being without his favoured central defensive partnership as both Kompany and Lescott had tweeted earlier in the day that the game had come to soon for them. The team sheet read as follows: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Kolo, Clichy, Yaya, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Balotelli and Dzeko. So Silva plays through his injury and despite being hauled off mid-week, Balotelli starts the game. With Aguero missing training through injury, he was absent from the bench which consisted of: Pantillimon, Kolarov, Savic, De Jong, Johnson, Milner, Tevez and

The game started as expected with City controlling possession easily and stroking the ball patiently around the pitch. But right from the off one thing was apparent. City lacked width. They had the same problem at Chelsea but with Stoke putting all eleven men behind the ball when City were in possession, the lack of width looked like it would cause a real problem.

City were clearly dominant in the opening twenty minutes as Stoke struggled to cope with the pace and movement that the Blues demonstrated but despite this dominance their chances were limited. First Silva shot wide and then Zabaleta also shot wide with a great chance. Shortly after it was Yaya`s turn to fluff his lines as he blazed a shot over from distance.

Controversy was soon to break out as Silva went up for a ball with Dean Whitehead. The Stoke player used his elbow as tool of choice and took the diminutive Spaniard out with a blow to the head. Silva lay prone and bleeding as Howard Webb ran over to make sure the focus was on him. He awarded a free kick to City and rather than issuing a straight red for violent conduct, 'had a word` with Whitehead, possibly congratulating him. To make matters worse, the Stoke fans actually booed Silva for apparently 'head butting` Whiteheads elbow. The two W`s, Webb and Whitehead were utterly disgraceful in this incident.

Only a minute later and with different adversaries, the scenario was played out again as this time Shawcross, clearly confused as to what sport he was playing, first attempted to rugby tackle Balotelli to the ground and when this didn`t work, used a Jui-Jitsu face lock to throw his opponent to the ground. Balotelli to his credit did not react, but Mr Webb true to his character, awarded a free kick and once again, 'had a word`. Two red card offences dealt with in a rather strange manner. The Stoke fans began to boo Balotelli now for his part in damaging the turf when he hit the ground.

Stoke began to fancy their chances as a battered and bruised City were being offered little protection by Howard Red. They began working the ball into better positions and City started to sit deeper as the half wore on. Suddenly though it was City who were on the break and after fine work between Silva and Nasri, it was Dzeko who found himself with a fine chance that he failed to even test the keeper with.

As frustration began to creep into City`s game, Barry found himself behind an advancing Jerome. He tugged the player`s shirt and Jerome went down. Barry must have thought a free kick would be severe if Webb was refereeing fairly. But no, Mr Webb went straight for his card, luckily yellow as shirt tugging is clearly worse that elbowing, wrestling and face locks.

With four minutes of the half left, after clinging on for large parts of the game, it was Stoke who nearly took the lead. Stoke won a corner on City`s left and Etherington swung a wicked cross into the danger zone. The man with the Jui-Jitsu, Shawcross met the ball with a deft header that had Hart beaten and looked goal bound until Zabaleta cleared the ball off the line.

There were no changes at half time as Mancini continued with the same narrow formation that had failed to break down Stoke in the first half and it was City who started the brighter with a couple of half chances in the opening ten minutes.

In the fifteenth minute, after a half chance by City went wide, Begovic cleared the ball upfield with a massive kick. It was met by the head of Crouch who then received a return header from Pennant. With one flick of his massive boots, and without the ball touching the ground since Begovic`s kick, Crouch shut his eyes and let rip with and almighty volley. Whether luck or sublime skill, he will never hit a ball as well in his career and Hart could only leap despairingly and watch the ball beat him hands down and nestle in the top corner. One nil to Stoke, rather undeservingly, but City were making heavy weather of this game.

With a win needed and perhaps recognising the need for width, Mancini withdrew the battered Silva and replaced him with Johnson, sporting new red boots! The red boots hardly helped as Johnson struggled to make an impact down either wing, failing to beat his man so many times it got boring.

As City sought a way back into the game, Stoke used every dirty tactic in the book to stop them. Fouls, diving, pulling and pushing, you name it, they tried it and you could see Mancini`s men become more and more frustrated with the lack of protection from the ref. With sixteen minutes to go, Tevez came on to resounding boos from the Stoke fans. They must have enjoyed booing City players.

Within seconds of Tevez coming on, City were back in the game. Tevez however was not involved. It was Yaya who picked the ball up forty yards from goal. He looked up and with one thought in his mind unleashed a pile driver of a shot. Begovic looked to have the ball covered but failed to shout for it. Shawcross attempted to head clear but merely deflected the ball into his own net. 1-1 and game on.

Mancini then threw on Milner for Zabaleta and City pressed forward looking for the winner, but despite their efforts Stoke held on until the final whistle and indeed nearly had a goal themselves, albeit after the whistle had gone for an infringement. It was clear today that City`s lack of talent on either wing could cost them the title. They simply aren`t creating enough chances and teams have wised up to the passing through the middle. A disappointing result, although the Blues do go back to the top on goal difference.

Star Player

Yaya Toure - 7.5

The pick of an average bunch today. No-one really stood out but Yaya can be relied upon to try single handedly to win the game and that he did.

Player Ratings


Joe Hart - 7

A spectator for the most part. Could do nothing about Crouch's wonder/lucky goal

Pablo Zabaleta - 7.5

Solid defensilvely but criminally guilty of passing when he was free to shoot just 10 yards out. Cleared the ball fantastically off the line to save City's blushes.

Micah Richards - 7

Had little threat and looked good. Suffered from cramp toward the end.

Kolo Toure - 7

Did his job.

Gael Clichy - 6.5

Couldn't cross today and found Crouch too much when he went wide.

Yaya Toure - 7.5

The puck of the bunch and capped off his performance with a great goal.

Gareth Barry - 7

Booked for a nothing foul and then disappeared.

Samir Nasri - 7

Tried but nothing came off for him today.

David Silva - 6

Suffered at the hands of some brutal treatment and got no protection off Webb. His shirt is clearly the wrong shade of red to get any protection.

Mario Balotelli - 7

Kicked hit and generally provoked. Kept his composure but didnt get many chances.

Edin Dzeko - 6

Wasn't really in the game. Had a couple of tame headers in the 90.

Adam Johnson - 5

About as effective as a spider in a bath.

Carlos Tevez - 6

Did nothing to change the game.

James Milner -

Too late to mark.

Manager Rating

Roberto Mancini - 6

Not good enough to win the league on this form. His team needs more width and no doubt a winger will be purchased in the summer.

Ref Watch - Howard Webb

Punished a head splitting elbow to Silva with a free kick as well as a hand in the face on Balotelli. Refused to book any of the mass of blatant first half fouls by dirty Stoke but booked Barry for his first foul. The man is a joke of a ref and a clear United fan.




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The journalist

Writer: Redmond6 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday March 24 2012

Time: 8:46PM

Your Comments

The one important foul that mr webb ignored was the one by crouch on Barry before he swung his size seventeen for the goal. Same thing happened against chelsea.
thecamelsfoot
Hello Adam, your supposed to be a winger, dribble, take on the fullback and cross. You played like a scared rabbit.
johnkelv
I got well cheesed off yesterday with that Geordie pratt Waddle whose most frequent comment was "Well, that's what you get with Stoke". It is a shame when their 'brand' of football is regarded as legtitimate - narrowing the pitch to suit them; endless delays at free kicks and throw ins; rough house tactics defended ("It's a man's game so stop complaining") and going unpunished; endless long balls into the box. And all seen as reasonable because 'that's the way Stoke play'. Well if every team played that way the league would be ****. Teams and players all have limitations but I am fed up when this limited football is held up as good practice just because it 'frustrates the opposition'. I never realised that this was the sole object of playing professional football. Norwich don't play that way and neither do Swansea. The Brittania was described as a 'horrible place to play' which makes them feel like the Galatasaray of English football. What a great reputation to have, I hope they are pleased. I am also seriously fed up with City players collecting bookings for offences sich as shirt pulling (fine, but book EVEYBODY that does it) but when manhandling opposition players does not get dealt with.
Skoorb
We've been up against the same old crap ALL season. At least twice yesterday one of the horrid stroke players pulled Balotelli over by putting their hand on his face - if ever there was a bookin g that's it, but we got nothing out of Howard Webb. It's getting incredibly frustrating watching our players get booked constantly for "fouls" that are ignored if the opposition make them. Where is the consistency in refereeing that is all anyone is asking for? I suspect Mr Webb is still rather hacked off at his mistake during our match with Spurs and deliberately ignored the repeated assaults on our players yesterday. And if mario Balotelli's contact with martin Skrtel's shoulder earlier in the season was deemed a sending off, then Dean Whitehead deserves a 3 match ban for his blatant and dangerous assault on Silva yesterday. How any referee can argue the fact that a player is lying on the ground bleeding from a head wound after contact with an opponent's elbow isn't a stragiht red card is beyond me. But then again, I've been mystified by a lot of refereeing decisions this season. Stoke are horrid.
fifthcolumnblue
How much of a star-struck a.r.s.e licker is Pulis! Couldn't resist a Ferguson comment could he. Sycophantic t**t.
RobsonGreensleeves
Stoke's brand of football is neanderthal. One could even argue its not football at all. If we deduct the number of minutes Stoke take for throw ins, time taken for free kicks won in strategic areas and the number of times they boot the ball into the crowd under even the slightest of pressure - forcing the opposition to take throw ins it would leave perhaps an hour of normal playing time. In that one hour of playing time they indulge in rotational fouling of the opposition's forwards, rough house tactics and mostly just punt the ball forward to a beanpole forward line whose main strength is in the air and not on the ground. Stoke can audition for air ball or head ball but not football.
Deltaforce
Stoke are coached in how to be violent - they can keep their mind-numbingly dull "football", they can keep their time wasting, whatever. But the violence and deliberate attempts to injure other teams' players is just completely out of order. How long will it be before there is another Arron Ramsey?
fifthcolumnblue
Wow and all in all the worst challenge of the match was on a stoke player who could have easily had his leg broken... Tsk Tsk...
Mix26
And your point is what Mix? Does Barry's badly timed challenge excuse Stoke for their roughhouse tactics at the Brittania? Does it excuse the leniency that is shown to them by refs when they're playing at home?
Bluedub
Im not sure Bd... lets just be grateful none of their players stamped on your players heads ey?
Mix26
You still got that crush on Mario then? That's really why you came on here isn't it mate? You heard he gatecrashed that presser and wanted to comment on it, you just can't get enough of him. Btw he didn't stamp on anyone's head, he may have intended to, he may not, either way he missed.
Bluedub
Lol yup I got a crush on him... Lol albeit that was a pretty interesting gate crash! U gotta give it to the guy he knows how to make an entrance! Lol! I think most top clubs know what Stoke are about. U guys should have seen it coming to be honest. My point above is u can't really use there tactics as an excuse really.... It's not as if ur boys are lightweight?
Mix26
I didn't use it as an excuse myself Mix. We got what we deserved. That doesn't take away from the fact that what Stroke are allowed get away with at home is wrong and is bad for football imo.
Bluedub
Your 100% home record will be under threat on Saturday and your season may fizzle out . Was kinda looking forward to the Etiad decider.
nickster
Ah well Nickster, at least we took the PL record of U*d along the way, not the only thing we'll be taking off you in the coming years.
Bluedub
BD its far from over and there could be more twists untill the end .And if UTD win this season it only delays City ,with your sending power and already world class squad it will happen and you could dominate for years but we love a challenge and you are very worthy opponents.
nickster
 

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