Match Report: Michael Owen fails to conjure up the magic of the cup as Crystal Palace and Stoke play out goalless draw
Crystal Palace 0 Stoke 0
The "magic" of the FA Cup drew Crystal Palace's lowest crowd in three months, and the absent regulars had the right idea. While the tie had an interesting contrast in styles, Palace running at Stoke's defence while the visitors looked early and long for Peter Crouch, neither approach brought reward, and they will have to try again at the Britannia on Tuesday week.
Stoke City may be a big team, both physically and in League status, but Palace are more interested in making sure they are mixing with giants next season than killing them. Even Ian Holloway described the tie as "a practice match in a great competition" and the replay is an undesirable addition to the fixture list. But Holloway, as ever, searched for the positives.
"I wanted to win or lose," said the Palace manager. "I wasn't bothered which as long as we had a good performance, but the way the game went I didn't want to lose as I didn't think my team deserved to. This was great experience for a young team and a replay at Stoke will be fantastic experience."
It was certainly a learning experience. Stoke are not always as one-dimensional as they were yesterday but they are always physical, not usually in a violent manner but in that shoving, grappling, just-the-right-side-of-the-law sense that makes them difficult to play against. Palace did indeed grow frustrated, berating the officials and losing their focus, though no one took matters into their own hands (or head) as Marouane Felliani had.
The worst tackle of the game was by Palace's Stuart O'Keefe, on Jonathan Walters, for which he was booked, but Holloway was understandably upset by a late challenge on the £12m-rated Wilfried Zaha by Ryan Shotton which forced Zaha off but escaped censure.
Holloway, who described the officiating in general as "strange", said: "He gave a yellow card for an innocuous foul by Walters, so what's the one on Zaha? He caught Wilf. Whether he meant it or not Wilf's had to come off."
Zaha began in a central attacking role in an intriguing 4-2-1-3 formation featuring Andre Moritz behind Zaha and two wingers pushed on. Given the degree of service Stoke's full-backs provide their front men it was actually a smart defensive move to keep them penned back. Zaha's deployment was partly forced as illness meant Palace were without the 22-goal Glenn Murray, one of four changes in the XI.
Stoke, finalists two seasons ago, made six changes, though such is their squad depth it did not significantly weaken the team. The reshaped side paired Michael Owen and Crouch in attack. This was Owen's belated first start for City, on the ground on which he made his senior debut for Liverpool against the original Wimbledon 16 years ago.
He scored then but never looked like doing so yesterday, being starved of service before being withdrawn, as planned, before the hour. "He needs more games but we're pleased he got through without problems," said Tony Pulis, who dismissed reports that Owen may play in Australia.
Owen did create the 10th-minute chance from which Crouch should have put Stoke ahead. Owen flicked on a recycled corner to the far post where Crouch, his legs all a-tangle, somehow managed to shoot across goal and wide from six yards out.
Aside from an ambitious 40-yard lob by Charlie Adam, Stoke never threatened again, but Thomas Sorensen was equal to anything Palace had.
He had already made a good save from Jermaine Easter, and later made a sharp one from Zaha, but everything else was regulation as Stoke defended with their usual combination of muscle and nous. Yannick Bolasie was the brightest of Palace's attackers, though the cameos of Williams and Kwesi Appiah underlined the depth of the Eagles' youthful promise.
"We knew it would be tough," said Pulis. "We are happy with the draw."
Crystal Palace (4-2-1-3): Price; Parr, Ramage, Delaney, Moxey; Jedinak, O'Keefe; Moritz; Bolaise (Banton, 68), Zaha (Williams, 55), Easter (Appiah, 66).
Stoke City(4-4-2): Sorensen; Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Cameron; Walters, Whitehead, N'Zonzi, Kightly (Jerome, 55); Crouch (Jones, 74), Owen (Adam, 54).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the match: Bolasie (Crystal Palace)
Match rating: 5/10
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