Tony Pulis proud of latest milestone
Friday 05 August 2011
Stoke boss Tony Pulis hailed another milestone for his team after they secured a place in the final qualifying round of the Europa League with victory over Hajduk Split in Croatia.
The Potters, who went into the third-round second leg with a 1-0 lead from last week's first leg at the Britannia Stadium, put in an impressively controlled display over 90 minutes, with Pulis' players seemingly untroubled by the vociferous home supporters at Stadion Poljud.
And the performance was capped in stoppage time as Hajduk defender Ljubo Milicevic put Dean Whitehead's cross into his own net under pressure from Ryan Shotton to make it 1-0 on the night and seal a 2-0 win on aggregate.
Stoke are now a two-legged tie away from the group stages proper, with their name going into the hat for today's draw for the qualifying play-off stage.
This is the first time the club have played in major European competition for 37 years and having been immediately eliminated on the two occasions they competed in the UEFA Cup in the 1970s, it is also the first time they have emerged from a continental tie triumphant - the latest in a string of landmark achievements for the Potters under the guidance of Pulis, who took over for a second spell as manager in 2006.
"We were quietly confident," Pulis said.
"The important thing was to make sure that we came here with the lads full of confidence.
"We know Hajduk are a very famous and great club, and they have fantastic supporters - we knew the atmosphere would be brilliant.
"But we thought that if we played our game, and we played as well as we can, with the lads putting the effort and commitment in, then we'd have as good a chance as them of winning the game.
"This is the first time the club has played a European tie and actually qualified or gone through, so it's another new bridge we have crossed.
"We got into the Premier League a few years ago, then we got to Wembley (for the FA Cup final last season) and now we have crossed this bridge - they are three fantastic achievements in such a small space of time."
As he had done for the first leg, Pulis named a strong side for the match, handing a Stoke debut to summer signing Jonathan Woodgate.
Pulis revealed he had made the decision to play the former Tottenham, Real Madrid and England defender several days earlier.
"I decided about a week ago," Pulis said.
"I thought this would be the right game for him, given his experience."
Hajduk coach Krasimir Balakov insisted he was not disappointed with his players' efforts.
"I would be disappointed only if the team did not give their best," he said.
"The team have given their best and the fact that it was not enough is just unfortunate."
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