Monday, 13 September 2010

Stoke City 2 Aston Villa 1: Robert Huth is on fire in fitting comeback win for Tony Pulis on sad day for Potters manager


By Neil Moxley

Head boy: Kenwyne Jones celebrated his first goal for Stoke after beating Richard Dunne in the air and heading in the hosts' equaliser

Tony Pulis's hectic dash from a family tragedy was rewarded in the most dramatic fashion as Stoke City's players left it until the last kick of the game to put a small smile on the face of their bereaved boss.

Robert Huth poked home the winner in the last few seconds of injury time to cap a stirring late revival that gave his side their first points of the Barclays Premier League season.

It was a small vestige of comfort for Pulis, whose mother died early yesterday morning and who was not expected to have attended last night's game.

Thank goodness for Stoke that he did, arriving four minutes after kick-off and having a significant effect on the outcome.

Stoke's assistant manager Dave Kemp said: 'I knew Tony was going to get here some time. He travelled up from south Wales and arrived four minutes after the start. He had a very sad day.

'Typical of him, he wanted to put his overalls on and come out to do his work.

'That's not going to change what happened to him today. But hopefully it will give him a bit of a boost. I think you saw the crowd get a bit of a boost. He took the paint off the walls in the dressing-room at half time.

'The manager coming out at the start of the second half gave us all a lift. He was desperate, even with everything else he has got going on, to have an impact. That's why he has been a great manager for this club.'

Head start: Aston Villa took control through Stewart Downing's excellent first half diving header, however his celebration provoked an angry reaction from the home supporters

Trailing to a rare Stewart Downing header 10 minutes before half time, few inside the Britannia Stadium would have dared dream of such a reversal of fortune as Villa appeared to have a firm hold on the game.

But Pulis delivered his half-time talk as normal before running down the tunnel.

When he emerged wearing his club tracksuit and trademark baseball cap to resume his duties, the crowd rose as one to register their approval of the Welshman's courage and determination.

Pulis had raced from the family home in Newport to take charge of his side after a topsy-turvy first half which his side had dominated for the first 35 minutes.

However, Downing then scored with a stooping header, only the fourth time he has found the net in the Premier League for his new club following a £12million move from Middlesbrough last season.

That changed the complexion of the match as, until then, Stoke had been clearly the better side.

In a bizarre ending to the first half, though, Villa could have been celebrating at least two other goals, which would have given them an unassailable lead. And with the game moving into the final 10 minutes, Villa remained comfortable and Brad Friedel untroubled.

All that changed when, after a period of sustained pressure, the ball was worked to the right -hand side where substitute Jermaine Pennant set up a shooting chance. Eventually the ball was worked to Matthew Etherington after James Collins blocked and the winger crossed for Kenwyne Jones to head in a deserved goal on his home debut.

Villa can feel aggrieved that they lost in the final seconds. Skipper Stiliyan Petrov was judged by referee Lee Probert to have fouled Pennant on the right wing but they can only have only themselves to blame for failing to deal with the free-kick that followed.

Emotional: Pulis' absence was explained on screen (above) and he was given a warm welcome (below) when he appeared at half-time

Emotional: Pulis' absence was explained on screen (above) and he was given a warm welcome (below) when he appeared at half-time

After Pennant struck a delicious cross into the heart of the visitors' defence, Villa twice failed to clear and the ball fell to Etherington, whose low centre was stabbed into the net by Huth.

Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald said: 'It was a decent game, a good game. My lads are angry because they felt Jermaine Pennant fell over too easily for the free-kick.'

Fitting tribute: Stoke players rejoice after Robert Huth's injury-time winner secures their first points of the season

MATCH FACTSSTOKE CITY (4-4-2): Sorensen 6; Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Faye 6, D Collins 6; Delap 6 (Whelan 87min), Whitehead 6, Wilson 6 (Pennant 65, 7), Etherington 7; Walters 5 (Fuller 61, 7), Jones 8. Booked: D Collins.

ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Friedel 8; L Young 6, J Collins 6, Dunne 6, Warnock 7; Albrighton 6, Petrov 6, Reo-Coker 6, Downing 7; A Young 7, Agbonlahor 7 (Heskey 86). Booked: Warnock, Petrov.

Man of the match: Kenwyne Jones. Referee: Lee Probert 8

source: dailymail

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