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Stoke City 1 West Bromwich Albion 1: match report

Stoke City 1 West Bromwich Albion 1: match report
Read a full match report of the Premier League game between Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion at the Britannia Stadium on Monday Feb 28 2011.  
Carlos Vela again rescued West Brom at the death here, grabbing a deserved late point as Roy Hodgson's changes paid off.

Albion's manager and players were both treated to a standing ovation from the visiting fans at the final whistle.

Trailing to Rory Delap's header, West Brom fans re-found their voices when Vela pounced, although Stoke could easily have been speechless.

Vela was offside when receiving Steven Reid's pass, although few neutrals could begrudge Albion, and particularly the outstanding Reid, a point which lifts them out of the bottom three. It was a dramatic end to a game that had struggled to come to life. The second period was good but the opening 45 minutes had been the half that football forgot. The Britannia Stadium DJ clearly had a mischievous sense of humour in spinning “Firework” by Katy Perry at the break.

Stoke were typically direct, although lent some occasional subtlety by Jermaine Pennant, who even received the compliment of a couple of late challenges by Chris Brunt to keep him at bay. From the second foul, Pennant conjured up the best chance of a barren half, a free-kick that kissed the West Brom crossbar.

Scott Carson, preferred in goal to Boaz Myhill, had earlier dealt with another Pennant free-kick. Albion’s keeper also stood firm under an occasional bombardment, some unleashed by Delap’s long throws.

As Carson and his defenders awaited the dropping missile, Stoke players stormed into the box like the Red Arrows. Such was the pressure that Albion’s centre-half, Jonas Olsson, was quickly and sneakily tugging away at Kenwyne Jones’s shirt to restrict the Stoke striker’s movement.

Albion created a couple of chances before the break, a shot from Graham Dorrans that Asmir Begovic saved and a wayward attempt from Paul Scharner. The lack of accuracy and venom in Scharner’s effort summed up a half largely free of composure.

A goal soon arrived shortly after the restart, and there was little surprise that it came via a set-piece. Jonathan Walters won the corner, and Pennant took charge, drilling the ball in. West Brom’s marking was woeful. Delap lost Dorrans so easily, giving him the space to meet the corner and head past Carson and Youssuf Mulumbu.

Albion awoke, giving hope to their fans. When Steven Reid crossed from the right, Dorrans headed powerfully goalwards, the ball catching Ryan Shawcross and bringing a sharp reaction save from Begovic.Sportingly, Dorrans gave Stoke’s keeper a respectful tap on the head.

As the visitors began to push forward more assertively, Tony Pulis acted, withdrawing John Carew, who had seemed more engaged in a skirmish with Scharner, and sending on Matthew Etherington.

Stoke had width, with Pennant and Etherington looking to supply Jones and Walters, who vacated his left-sided station for a more a central role.

Ignoring Stoke’s tactical tweak, West Brom continued to press. Reid delivered another good cross which Marc-Antoine Fortune misread. He eventually connected with his shoulder, the ball looping up but just over Begovic’s bar.

With 18 minutes left, Hodgson spiced up his attack. Peter Odemwingie came on for the disappointing Fortune while Somen Tchoyi replaced Mulumbu and started driving down the right.

Albion urgently needed a goal, and Tchoyi and Odemwingie added some urgency. Their fans fell quiet for a while, waiting for somebody to take responsibility. Odemwingie was lively, running hard, but Stoke’s defence resembled a strong thicket.

Pulis twisted again, sending on Glenn Whelan for Pennant but what this game needed was Ronnie Whelan. The lack of guile was alarming.

With time running out, Hodgson sent on Carlos Vela for Jerome Thomas, while Ricardo Fuller arrived for Jones, striving to help Stoke put the game beyond Albion.

A pall of gloom began to descend upon the game, particularly when a Reid free-kick thundered into a Stoke wall and then a wild Tchoyi shot threatened to reach the A50.

Albion's greater adventure was rewarded with four minutes remaining. Tchoyi's cross was blocked, spinning back out to Reid, who lifted over another good cross. Vela was a foot offside but the assistant referee kept his flag down. Vela, calmness personified, controlled the ball and slipped it past Begovic.

Albion maintained their pressure and Robert Huth was cautioned for cynically tripping Odemwingie. Still West Brom attacked. Tchoyi wasdenied by a superb Begovic save and then Vela went close. Once again, Hodgson's men had rallied late on.