Huth's header the difference for Potters
Second half goals from Robert Huth and Marc Wilson were the difference between the two sides in a game that lacked a lot of creativity and clear cut chances for either side.
Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean made three changes to his starting line-up from the side who drew with West Ham United a week ago. Captain Chris Samba and striker Jason Roberts were ruled out with injuries, while El-Hadji Diouf was dropped to the bench. Young central defender Grant Hanley, midfielder Martin Olsson and striker Nikola Kalinic came into the Rovers side.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis made just one change from the side that lost to Blackpool in their last match, with Jonathan Walters recovering from flu and returning to the side in place of Jamaican Ricardo Fuller, who was named as a substitute.
The first chance of the match came in the ninth minute and fell to the visitors and Rory Delap. A neat ball into Walters was flicked into the path of the on-running Delap, but once he was inside the penalty area he was caught in two minds and delivers a cross/shot which was too far in front of Kenwyne Jones and easy for Paul Robinson to collect.
Stoke should have taken the lead in the 14th minute, following a trademark long flat throw from Delap. Captain Ryan Shawcross flicked the ball on from inside the penalty area but at the back post Matthew Etherington managed to fire wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy. The assistant referee spared the winger’s blushes by raising his flag, but replays showed he was onside and should have opened the scoring.
The home side were struggling to create any clear cut chances and it wasn’t until the 25th minute that they seriously threatened the visitors’ goal. A great ball by David Dunn found Olsson on the left wing, he skipped past two defenders but his dangerous low cross was well cleared by Robert Huth before Kalinic could pounce.
Three half chances were all the crowd were treated to in a uninspiring first half where the ball spent most of its time in the middle of the pitch and the game screamed out for a piece of creativity to spark it into life. Sadly this failed to materialise and referee Mike Jones brought the half to a close with the game goalless.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis must have had strong words for his team during the interval as they started the second half at a much faster pace than they finished the first. And six minutes into the half they got there reward as Robert Huth opened the scoring with a close range header. A right wing corner from Etherington was met by Huth inside the six yard box and he powered his header past Paul Robinson and into the back of the net.
That goal sparked Blackburn into life and in the 58th minute they had their best chance of the match through Mame Biriam Diouf. A counter attack began with Brett Emerton, who released Michel Salgado down the right wing. The Spaniard played a low cross into Diouf inside the penalty area but after a neat spin his shot lacked power allowing Begovic to save easily.
The match had become much more open, which benefitted the visitors who looked very dangerous on the counter attack. And in the 67th minute they were denied a second goal by a good save from Robinson. Etherington was released down the left wing, he was given time to cross which he did and found Jones at the back post but his header was tipped over by the Blackburn goalkeeper.
Five minutes later Rovers were lucky again as Jones was again denied by Robinson, the striker got a lucky bounce on the edge of the area and he was suddenly one-on-one with the goalkeeper — but Robinson stayed on his feet well to deny the striker a shooting opportunity before conceding a corner.
Blackburn’s best opportunity of the game came with eight minutes remaining but youngster Grant Hanley was denied by a wonderful save from Begovic. A deep corner from Pedersen was met by Hanley at the back post but Begovic made a great diving save to palm the powerful header over the bar.
With the game drifting towards its conclusion Stoke doubled their lead in injury time, Fuller charged down the right wing and delivered a low cross into the path of substitute Marc Wilson who controlled the ball and fired past Robinson from five yards to seal victory.