Tony Pulis danced on the touchline, a sight as painful as it is nostalgic for Stoke supporters, as West Bromwich capitalised on two first-half red cards to haul themselves off the foot of the Premier League table.
An occasionally cantankerous, often dour, affair was settled by Salomon Rondon’s looping header on the stroke of half-time after dubitable dismissals for Ibrahim Afellay, following a swipe at Craig Gardner, and Charlie Adam, who was adjudged to have stamped on Craig Dawson.
Pulis managed Stoke in three different divisions over two spells. Making his first return to his former employers, the West Bromwich manager resisted the temptation to be triumphant: “I got a wonderful reception. Peter [Coates, Stoke chairman] paid me to do a job here and I did that job. The respect I got today was special, they’re a special lot. It’s a special club.”
Afellay swiped back after a challenge by Gardner, who then appeared to commit a similar offence, but Michael Oliver considered the former Barcelona midfielder’s indiscretion the more serious of the two. “It’s the letter of the law,” said Mark Hughes. “If you raise your hands you have to go. But if you send Afellay off, you have to send Gardner off.”
If Stoke were aggrieved at the referee’s first action, merely booking Gardner for his role, his decision to send Adam packing risked pandemonium on Stanley Matthews Way.
Stoke refused to be engulfed without their midfield general, however, and delivered the sort of dogmatic display rarely witnessed since the halcyon days under Pulis. Once Rondon had netted, courtesy of Rickie Lambert’s deep cross, Pulis wrote the script. The Welshman might not compose classics, but he deserves acclaim nonetheless.Reuse content