In the end, a point was all we took home from Britannia Stadium. The most despicable place on Earth (that’s saying a lot considering my contempt of this place call Shite Hart Lane) where education was never taught to these people and the still use fire as their form of light source.
Here is a stadium full of people who booed Aaron Ramsey’s every touch. This, a boy who had his leg broken by one of their thugs. This, is their response to a player from another team who dare to put his foot in for their captain to break it. You can’t vouch for these kind of behaviour and I hope the FA takes some form of action. The management of Stoke City Football Club will also have to take some of the blame. Leading up to this game, there were zero attempts to diffuse the situation and no one plead for their fans not to have a go at Ramsey. Morons, all of them.
All that aside, the result of this game clears away the last piece of advantage that we had over the chasing pack for Champions League places. If we had room to maneuver before, now we don’t. Any more drop points from the last 2 games and the permutations will have to rely on the other teams. Win our last 2 games and we still have control of the final destiny.
Yossi Benayoun and Gervinho came in respectively for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. Both were industrious and threatening in the first half. But like the rest of the team, failed to find the second wind in the second half. Benayoun in particular was like a caged animal being released after a certain period. He chased after everything and put pressure on the home defenders.
It was him that started the move to our equaliser. Reversing the pass to the onrushing Tomas Rosicky, that created the space for the Czech. Rosicky’s pin point cross was met by Robin Van Persie and Asmir Begovic had no chance. The duck from open play broken, a welcome relief for everyone. From a similar move from the other side of the pitch, Gervinho was a tad close and had he been a few inches taller, we might have taken the lead.
However, like I said, it was the equaliser. Stoke had earlier taken the lead through Peter Crouch. First attempt on our goal and it was put in the back of the net. Bacary Sagna didn’t close down Matthew Etherington quickly enough and the cross was delivered into our box. Thomas Vermaelen lost track of Crouch and Kieran Gibbs had to come in and cover. Jumping for a header against Crouch, Gibbs was never going to win. Poor defending all around.
We could have easily let that bog us and never recover from it. We were very much the team in the ascendency and had the lion share of the ball possession. Yet, we were one goal behind. But we came back through sheer commitment and desire. We never shirk the challenges and come back into the game stronger. That’s how we got the equaliser.
One player who epitomises the spirit was Ramsey himself. It would not be easy for him to go there to play, let alone being hounded by morons. But the Welsh captain never hide. There was a full blooded challenge very early on which many players would have opted to stay out of, but Ramsey dived in. That was brilliant, we have a player who’s mental strength could never be questioned. Admittedly some of the passed did not find their intended targets but Ramsey could be proud with his night’s work.
Level at half time and with the way we were playing, it looked to be one possible winner of this game. But the second goal never came, for either side. Stoke had one chance which was going towards goal but Sagna cleared it before it was even near the line. We had a strong penalty shout when Benayoun was nudged in the box when RvP tried to reverse the ball to him. Not given, one for the dubious section.
Alterations were made with Abou Diaby and Marouane Chamakh sent in as reinforcements. That didn’t work. We had 2 strikers up front and that seemed to lead to confusion in midfield as to who is suppose to be where. Chamakh was decent and showed better touches/control than we seen this season. Diaby kept it simple and looked to have pulled something but no further information was given on that.
Chris Foy, who was the referee for this match had earlier given Dean Whitehead a yellow card. Foy correctly let play go on late in injury time even though Whitehead committed another foul but failed to penalise the midfielder when the ball went out of play. There should have been another yellow there and Whitehead would have been off which makes him unable to dive right in front of Arsene Wenger. That jolt the home morons into action. Ridiculous refereeing and morons.
On the overall picture, a draw against a team in the 14th place in the league is not something we can be happy about. We needed the points and it was another 45 minutes worth of performance. But football are never black and white. While Stoke has mixed results against mid table and lower teams, they have a formula which works against the big teams. This was not an easy game. Yes, we should have won but a point is not bad either.
Real battle ensues next week.