Crouch 'outnumbers' Swansea to lift Stoke spirits
Stoke City 2 Swansea City 0
Sunday 30 September 2012
If statistics can reinforce a point they can also mislead horribly. Stoke, 11 Premier League matches since they had last won, were ostensibly at their lowest ebb since they went 17 games without a win in 1989. They had not endured a poorer start to a top-flight season, moreover, since 1973.
However, look at it another way, and they had at times been so hard to beat during those 11 games that they had been able to take points off Arsenal (twice), Everton and Manchester City, while their defeat at Chelsea last week was considered to be unkind.
Against a Swansea side beaten three times in a row, showing signs lately that they are finding life at the top a little more taxing compared with their free-spirited debut season, this result, therefore, was hardly a surprise. Stoke were stronger, quicker, more sure of themselves. Swansea dominated possession 60-40 in the day's other misleading statistic, as they rarely threatened Asmir Begovic's goal. At the other end it was as if they were outnumbered by one man: Peter Crouch,
Crouch scored both Stoke's goals, the first rather easily, the second a classic of his repertoire, the kind in which everything seems to happen in a blur of knees and elbows but then on second viewing you appreciate the speed of his reactions and the quality of his technique.
The chance came from a cross by Michael Kightly on the right to the far post in a crowded penalty area. Crouch controlled the ball on his chest, flicked it around Angel Rangel towards Jonathan Walters with an extended right leg and then was in position to shoot in an instant when Leon Britton's attempted clearance hit Walters on the head. Michel Vorm made a decent save but could not hold the ball and Crouch, still on his feet, still perfectly balanced, pounced deftly on the rebound.
Coupled with the free header he had been granted at a corner to give Stoke the lead, it took his tally to four goals in his last four Premier League games. The Britannia Stadium crowd, mindful of Crouch's omission from Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 and in two World Cup qualifiers since, joined in a chorus of "Crouch for England".
He came close to a hat-trick, a second half-header skimming the bar. Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, called him "unplayable" but would not be drawn to join the chorus. "Roy has a lot of experience and the last thing I want to do is tell him who to pick," he said. "I just wish he was Welsh."
Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; N'Zonzi, Whelan (Whitehead, 81); Kightly, Adam (Etherington, 68), Walters; Crouch (Jones, 86).
Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Flores, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki; Dyer, Michu (Moore, 75), Hernandez (Routledge, 61); Graham.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Man of the match: Crouch (Stoke)
Match rating: 6/10.
Half-time: 2-0 Att: 27,330
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