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FA Cup

  • March 13, 2011
  • • 10:00 AM
  • • Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
  • Referee: M. Jones
  • • Attendance: 24550

Stoke City 2-1 West Ham: Danny Higginbotham Free-Kick Fires Potters To FA Cup Semi-Final

Stoke City 2-1 West Ham: Danny Higginbotham Free-Kick Fires Potters To FA Cup Semi-Final

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Pulis' side claim semi-final berth

A free-kick from full back Danny Higginbotham helped Stoke City reach the FA Cup semi-final after a controversial goal from Frederic Piquionne and a penalty save from Robert Green had looked to have helped West Ham gain a replay.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis made his usual array of changes for the FA Cup tie, bringing in Thomas Sorensen, Danny Higginbotham, Glenn Whelan, Matthew Etherington and Jon Walters for starts while also having to replace the injured John Carew with Kenwyne Jones as they looked to avenge the three goal drubbing suffered at the hands of the Hammers last week.

His opposite number Avram Grant was less prepared to make numerous changes, with Demba Ba rested and Victor Obinna taking his place in a front three with both Piquionne and Carlton Cole, while Robbie Keane who returned from injury could only find a place on the bench. 

The home side dominated the early exchanges with wingers Etherington and Jermaine Pennant causing the West Ham full-backs James Tomkins and Wayne Bridge no end of problems, as they caused trouble down the sides.

They could have gone into the lead early as Pennant crossed from the right hand side directly into the path of the onrushing Etherington, who headed the ball towards the goal, but Green in the West Ham goal dealt with the chance expertly to keep the game goalless.

With ten minutes gone West Ham were to be the creators of their own downfall, as Manuel Da Costa failed to deal with a long ball properly and rather than letting it go out for a corner he decided to play it out for a throw in.

That decision would haunt the Portuguese defender, as Rory Delap bulleted his throw, straight on to the head of Robert Huth, who guided the ball past Green and into the back of the Hammers goal to give the home side at well deserved lead.

The Potters continued to press forward, with the front pair of Jones and Walters putting the West Ham defense under pressure but failing to find a way past Green to double their lead in the cup tie.

Then on the half hour mark, against the run of play West Ham got back into the game, as a long ball from Thomas Hitzlsperger seemed to cannon off the arm of Piquionne who then lobbed Thomas Sorensen and before Huth could get back, knocked it into the net.

While Piquionne lay on the ground in pain after colliding with Huth, Sorensen raced from his goal, livid with both the referee and his assistant for failing to see the handball from the West Ham striker, but neither was willing to listen to the keeper.

Five minutes later the French striker had failed to recover from the clash with Huth and West Ham boss Grant was forced to make a change, and rather than bringing on Keane he decided to go for the safer option by bringing on Jonathan Spector.

From then on the game started to become scrappy until just before the break when Delap received the ball on the right side of the penalty area. As he looked to play the ball across the face of the goal, Green saved and then also cleared the ball after Walters had struck the rebound towards the net.

Higginbotham's up | Match-winner as combative as ever for Stoke

Within seconds of the restart, referee Mike Jones was back in the good books of the home fans as he awarded Stoke a penalty, as Etherington went down under the challenge of Scott Parker. The former West Ham winger got up and took the penalty himself, but was devastated to see Green stretch his body and save the spot-kick.

The save didn’t deter the home side from looking to get back into the lead as they had a number of corners, which they continued to use in order to test Green in the Hammers goal, with Jones coming extremely close on one occasion, as Cole had to clear his header off the line.

On the hour mark the home side finally went ahead after two free kicks in quick succession, the first cannoned off the arm of Cole in the wall, and then the second from ten yards closer was thundered past Green, with the aid of a deflection by Higginbotham to give the Potters the advantage in the cup tie.

Midway through the half West Ham finally got their first shot of the second period, as Obinna unleashed a drive from the left hand side of the box after receiving the ball from Hitzlsperger, but his shot was saved by Sorensen as it was turned behind for a corner.

That was to be the last of the action for Obinna. He was replaced by Keane in the West Ham attack, as Grant’s side went in search of the equalizer to keep his side’s hopes of remaining in the competition alive.    

Stoke, however, continued to pile the pressure on the visitors as they looked to put the tie beyond doubt, but Pennant couldn’t secure the victory as his drive from the right hand side of the box went over the bar.

The game was starting to stretch and nearly allowed the visitors to get back into the tie as Keane received the ball on the edge of the six yard box before striking towards goal, only for Sorensen to get in the way and clear for a corner.

With the game going into the closing ten minutes, Stoke manager Pulis decided to shore things up in midfield, by taking off Pennant and replacing the winger with Dean Whitehead in order to seal things up for the reminder of the game.

West Ham were the next to be angry with referee Jones as Tomkins went down in a tussle with Walters inside the box, but instead of awarding a penalty the official gave the decision to the home side, much to the fury of the Hammers defender.

Then with five minutes remaining West Ham should have forced a replay as Hitzlsperger delivered a corner directly onto the head of Matthew Upson, but unfortunately for the central defender and the 4,500 Hammers fans behind the goal, the ball thumped off the bar and away to safety.

For the remaining minutes the game was played with one way traffic, as the visitors continued to pound the Stoke goal, in search of the elusive equalizer in order to take the cup tie back down to Upton Park.

In an effort to run the clock down Stoke made a couple of changes, with Jones and Etherington coming off to be replaced by Ricardo Fuller and Danny Collins as Pulis side looked to finish off the tie.

Stoke were able to hold on, and now go to Wembley for the semi-final next month.  

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