Not for a moment did Stoke imagine that life in the Premier League would be easy but manager Tony Pulis might have hoped it would take longer than one match for reality to leave its first, painful imprint. This was one of the games in which he knows his side must be competitive and to be so soundly beaten by one of last season's scrappers was not the start he had in mind.
The bookmaker who has already paid out on relegation for the Potters has probably not taken a huge risk. Pulis completed the signing of former Newcastle centre-back Abdoulaye Faye for £2.25 million on the eve of the match and will reflect that his introduction cannot come a moment too soon after a defence that served Stoke so well in their rise from the Championship was caught on the hop.
Full back Gretar Steinsson's opening goal may have been a fluke but there was no disguising who was at fault for the next two as Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander both scored with headers that should have been prevented. "If we learned anything it is that if you switch off for a minute at this level you will be punished," he said. "I don't think we deserved to lose 3-1 but we were naive at times."
Indeed it was all too easy for Bolton, themselves among the teams tipped to go down but already confident that last season's dreadful start will not be repeated. Opening-day losers against Newcastle, they suffered five defeats in the first six matches and after 10 games had only five points as Sammy Lee's time in charge came to a rapid end.
After Gary Megson's investment in quality – paying £5.5m for Birmingham's Fabrice Muamba as well as £8.2m for Toulouse striker Elmander – it would be hard to imagine the next nine matches yielding only two more.
"There have been a lot of changes at the club during the season and when things start as well as that you have to be pleased," Megson said. Stoke's chance of first-day satisfaction unravelled in the space of 11 minutes at the end of the first half.
And although Steinsson's terrific, angled volley off the underside of the bar was probably intended as a cross, Stoke had already been troubled enough by Elmander to suggest a difficult afternoon, especially since Muamba was outplaying Stoke's new arrival Seyi Olofinjana in midfield. Then came two defensive lapses in the space of four minutes as Davies back-headed Gary Cahill's free-kick over Thomas Sorensen's head despite the close attendance of two defenders and then Elmander stole in unmarked to mark his arrival with the third goal.
Liam Lawrence and Ricardo Fuller, coming back from injury, came off the Stoke bench in the second half to add craft but Fuller's injury-time header from Carl Dickinson's cross was too late to be anything but a reward for not completely crumbling.Reuse content