Swansea's style no match for Stoke's set-pieces
Stoke City 2 Swansea City 0
Monday 27 February 2012
Stoke, playing the percentages and profiting from set-piece goals by former England duo Matthew Upson and Peter Crouch, prevailed against Swansea's possession game in a clash of footballing philosophies to secure only a third win in their last 12 home games in all competitions.
After a week in which their Europa League adventure ended in Valencia, it was vital for a Stoke side showing 11 changes from the trip to Spain to avoid five successive Premier League defeats for the first time since gaining promotion four years ago. That they did so without adding to their paltry total of 11 league goals from open play was of scant concern to manager Tony Pulis.
A proud Welshman and boyhood Cardiff fan, Pulis is a pragmatist rather than a purist. "It's very important we get the points on the board as quick as we can," he said. Of the stylistic chasm between the clubs, he added: "The Swansea play is a credit to Brendan and his coaching staff. They're very patient; they're prepared to go backwards and sideways. But I'm not so sure our crowd would like it. They prefer us to be up and at teams."
His Swansea counterpart, Brendan Rodgers, had no complaints about the result, or the manner it was achieved, saying: "I don't take anything away from Stoke. I'm not one who cries about the way they play. We didn't defend the set-pieces well enough."
However, Rogers was dismayed that Howard Webb, the World Cup final referee, waved play on after Dean Whitehead tugged Gylfi Sigurdsson's shirt in the 82nd minute. "The players were told we didn't get it because he didn't go down. We're a team who try to win by fair means. Gylfi has been honest and stayed on his feet. It's just disappointing that if he goes down or falls over, we'd probably have got the penalty."
Rogers gave a league debut to goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel, a 33-year-old German, after Michel Vorm went down overnight with a virus. The stand-in keeper may have been relieved to see Rory Delap on the bench, but Stoke have another long-throw specialist in Ryan Shotton and Tremmel's feeble flap at his first missile was a sign of things to come.
Swansea should have been ahead in the second minute, Scott Sinclair shooting wildly over after a slick move involving Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer. Yet for all their intricacy in tight situations, it was the 80th minute before Asmir Begovic had a shot to save and stoppage time when Stoke's recalled keeper was forced to excel, tipping Steven Caulker's point-blank header on to the bar.
Stoke had gone ahead when Upson powered in a free header from Matt Etherington's corner, the defender's first goal in domestic football since he scored in England's 2010 World Cup rout by Germany. They soon doubled their lead as Crouch, rising to Shotton's throw, collected his 10th goal of the season as Tremmel failed to stop it creeping over the line.
Stoke: BEGOVIC 7/10; WILKINSON 6; SHAWCROSS 6; UPSON 8; WILSON 6; SHOTTON 6; WHITEHEAD 6; WHELAN 6; ETHERINGTON 6; WALTERS 5; CROUCH 7
Swansea: TREMMEL 5; TAYLOR 7; CAULKER 7; WILLIAMS 7; RANGEL 7; ALLEN 6; BRITTON 8; SINCLAIR 6; SIGURDSSON 7; DYER 7; GRAHAM 5
Substitutes: Stoke City Jerome 5 (Etherington, 68), Delap (Crouch, 88), Palacios (Shotton, 88). Swansea City Moore (Dyer, 71), McEachran (Sinclair, 71).
Booked: Stoke Shawcross.
Man of the match Upson. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Stoke 49% Swansea 51%.
Attempts on target: Stoke 9 Swansea 11.
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire). Attendance 26,678.
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