Pulis opts for stability over flair as Stoke grind out draw
Stoke City 0 Aston Villa 0
Monday 15 March 2010
It is probably just as well that Tony Pulis doesn't give a hoot what anyone thinks about Stoke's continuing presence in the Premier League. If he did, you suspect it would be their downfall.
If he were bothered, he would have made changes. He would have insisted that whatever happened they should at least play nicely, winning critical sympathy and the approval of his managerial peers. It might not have accrued many points, but friends would be plentiful.
It was by not doing that, however, by making no concession to popularity, that Pulis achieved 12th place with his promoted team last season and is on course to do just as well this season.
The question is: can you blame him? Had you watched this game as a neutral, seeking only entertainment, you would have felt short-changed. Pulis took off his most creative player, Tuncay Sanli, with more than half an hour left, but by the end Villa were happy to leave with a point. Bombarded by Rory Delap's long throws, buffeted by the giants seeking to exploit them, they were grateful for a clean sheet.
Only four teams have won at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League this season, three of whom occupy the first three places in the table.
Tuncay went off in a strop; Stoke's £5m record signing has completed a full 90 minutes only four times in 29 Premier League games. But Pulis could not have cared less. "It makes no difference to me who they are," he said. "The team is more important than any individual."
Indeed, the last half-hour saw Pulis vindicated, more or less. Ricardo Fuller, Tuncay's replacement, raised the tempo to the extent that Stoke had almost all the chances. But for some stout defending, particularly by Richard Dunne and James Milner, they would have won.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Collins; Whitehead, Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Tuncay Sanli (Fuller, 53), Sidibe (Kitson, 54). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Lawrence, Pugh, Wilkinson, Moult.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, J Collins, Dunne, Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Heskey, Carew (Agbonlahor, 77). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Delph, Beye.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
Bookings: Aston Villa Cuellar, Dunne, Milner, Warnock.
Man of the match: Dunne.
Nicklas Bendtner's injury-time winner at Hull will have come as little surprise to seasoned Premier League observers – Arsenal have now scored 15 goals in the last 10 minutes of games (a league high), while Hull have conceded the most, 14.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal players boo chief-executive Ivan Gazidis after being told they would not get bonus for FA Cup triumph
Brendan Rodgers future: Odds shorten on Liverpool manager being sacked, despite Jurgen Klopp announcement
Liverpool transfer news: James Milner nearing Anfield switch, but club baulk at £32.5m Christian Benteke release clause
Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
Betting company 'refuse to pay' after student wins £1,000 from 50p bet on Roger Federer
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history