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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
January 31, 2012
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: M. Jones
• Attendance: 74719
J. Hernández 38'
D. Berbatov 53'
So it finishes 2-0 to Manchester United here. On paper it would tell the tale that the home side only won through two penalties, but it was far more straightforward than that. It was a stroll in the park after the second goal, and United had plenty of chances to add to their lead. Stoke defended remarkably well in the first half but, apart from a 10 minute spell just after going two down, they faded in the second half.
90' + 4'
And that's fulltime!
90' + 3'
How did Berbatov miss that?! Jeez. Valencia, who has once more proved himself to be one of the best wingers in the league, does superbly down the right, skipping past two Stoke players before finding Berbatov six yards out. Somehow the striker sends it wide when it seemed easier to score. Sorensen was rooted to the spot.
90' + 2'
The stadium is half empty already. Some are just too desperate to grab that train home arn't they.
Anyways, we are into the three minutes of stoppage time now.
I'm going to 'pull a Harry Redknapp' here and say: I don't normally talk about referees BUT Smalling has twice been fouled directly in front of the ref tonight and both times the freekick has gone the other way. Very strange.
Another minute, another great Pogba contribution. Well, two infact. First he unselfishly finds Scholes inside the area instead of having a shot. Then, once Scholes' effort is cleared, the youngster picks the ball back up, scampers out wide and delivers another perfect ball across the face of Stoke's goal. Berbatov just wasn't quick enough for him.
Pogba is definitely in the mood tonight. He shows great desire to again nick the ball off an unsuspecting Stoke player, turns quick-sharp and darts diagonally towards goal before Huth gets a timely challenge in on him on the edge of the area.
Ferdinand is looking very tired out there as he hoofs the ball into touch. Stoke cannot take advantage of the throw-in though and possession is soon back with the home side.
United take the freekick short and opt to hold onto possession instead of having a pop. Boring.
Yellow Card Robert Huth
United win a freekick around 25 yards out after a reckless challenge from Huth that sends Evra up into the air...
...and it's so nearly the perfect end of some five minute cameo as Pogba gets on the end of Valencia's cutback but Shawcross get's across to block.
Wow, so this is why there is so much being said about Pogba's talent. He is really getting amongst it here as he fools two Stoke players without touching the ball as a quick turn of the hips sends Whitehead and Wilson facing the opposite way as the youngster skips in the other direction.
The first involvement for Pogba and it's very impressive. He fights for a loose ball with Whitehead, wins it, darts wide right and floats a great ball towards Berbatov at the far post. However, Shawcross is there to head clear.
Brilliant movement from United and they should be 3-0 up. Smalling feeds Valencia down the right, who in turn cuts the ball back for Park to have a dig from eight yards and only a last ditch block from Whitehead stops the midfielder from extending his side's lead.
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
Substitution for United as Hernandez is replaced by the much talked about Paul Pogba.
Yet ANOTHER shout for a penalty to United. Berbatov collects Smalling's overhit cross with a beautiful first touch. Plays in Evra but the left-back is tripped by Shawcross from behind. It is another dead-cert. Stoke really arn't helping themselves here, but get away with that one.
United starting to deal with this surge in Stoke prominence finally. Scholes is now back to dictating the tempo more in favour of the home side now.
The corner is floated in but Carrick clears with his head well. Walters goes through the back of the midfielder at the same time though. It looked nasty but Carrick, looking ever so slightly dazed, gets up.
...and just as I type Pennant does very well down the right and wins a corner for Stoke...
Stoke are growing in confidence and it's all coming through Pennant down the right. Evra is giving him too much room at the moment.
...Walters flings in a devilish delivery for Pennant to try and flick it in. He misses the connection and Evra hacks it clear but only as far as Whitehead. The defender lifts it up for Jones to head at goal, and it's on target but Amos, rather unconvincingly, smothers at the second attempt.
Another chance for Stoke perhaps? They win a freekick 35 yards out near the right-hand touchline...
...or perhaps not. It is a very poor corner as Walters tries to find Jerome on the edge of the area but it's cut out immediately by Park and United clear.
...but this might be his first test of the night as Stoke have a corner after Walters' shot is blocked by Smalling.
There is one person who will be enjoying this game more than most. Ben Amos. Stoke haven't had an attempt on target yet and are comfortably controlling the game now.
Peter Crouch's night is over as Cameron Jerome comes on. The striker has scored four goals in his last five appearances.
It's interesting that United changed penalty takers. To be fair, both scorers were in the need for a goal after long absences in the first team.
Yellow Card Jonathan Walters
Assist Antonio Valencia
Penalty Goal D. Berbatov
BERBATOV MAKES IT 2-0!! Dear me. Stoke are the architect's to their own downfall again and this is even more clear cut than the first (if it was possible). Valencia darts into the area and Walters drags the winger back not once, but twice. Stoke boss Tony Pulis is livid on the sidelines and I don't blame him.
PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED!!!
United getting back into their form of the first half as first Valencia fizzes another ball low into the area before Park and Berbatov combine to feed the latter into the box and drag a shot across the face of Sorensen's goal.
A tepid start to the second half in the early moments. Stoke just passing it around in the defence as they get used to what a football looks like after a lack of contact with it in the first half.
...and United get us back underway! It's currently 1-0 to the home side here.
The teams are back out for the start of the second half.
So, it's 1-0 to Manchester United here at halftime. The home side were completely dominate but Stoke look extremely organised in defence. A stone wall penalty is the difference, and it's a deserved lead.
45' + 1'
...and right on the nose the referee blows for the end of the first half.
There will be one additional minute of added time.
Yellow Card Paul Scholes
Big BIG shout for another penalty to United as Valencia's whipped ball into the box strikes Huth's arm and bounces away for a corner. The referee isn't having any of it, possibly because Huth's arms were down by his side.
Just under five minutes to go before the break now. United deserve their lead but I cannot explain enough how well Stoke defended until then. They will be deflated.
As you can see below Andy Wilkinson received a booking in the aftermath of the award of the penalty. Pennant gave away the foul, so I assume Wilkinson was booked for complaining.
Assist Ji-Sung Park
Penalty Goal Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
1-0!! HERNANDEZ SLOTS IT HOME!!! Park tries a one-two with Scholes on the edge of the Stoke area but fails to collect the return as Pennant takes him down. The Stoke man is, naturally, adamant that he got the ball but replays beg to differ. Hernandez cooly slots the penalty home, sending Sorensen the wrong way.
Yellow Card Andy Wilkinson
PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED!!!
Then again, United haven't been at their best with their passing today. Time and time again moves are slowed down or broken down by a stray pass.
Stoke have had very little of the ball in United's final third, and on the rare occasion they do get forward they just waste it. Just now, Pennant had plenty of time to pick a pass but opts, instead, for a flick with the outside of his boot towards Jones, but ends up sending it 10 yards in front of the striker and out for a throw-in.
That was almost perfect. Berbatov and Park combine on the left-hand side of the area before the former spots Carrick dashing into the area. The midfielder collects with a great first touch but is rash over of the finish as the ball trickles past the far post. Poor finish, Stoke were completely opened up then.
A rare forray forward by Stoke and it's completely wasted. Palacios 'does a Berbatov' by spinning on sixpence and finding Jones to storm through the centre. The United defence are quickly backtracking before seeing Jones' effort screw 15 yards wide. That was terrible.
Best chance for United, by far. Berbatov swivels brilliantly and sets Valencia running down the right. He has all the time and space in the world to pick who to find in the area, but it proves to be too much time as he goes for Hernandez at the far post instead of the free Berbatov 10 yards out, and Sorensen collects.
Here's a stat to prove how well Stoke are coping with the United pressure. The home side are currently boasting 78% of possession. Wow.
As much as everything is going through Scholes for United, Palacios is everywhere aswell. He's been a rock in the centre of midfield for Stoke so far.
Not a great 30 seconds for Peter Crouch there. First he tries to start a Stoke counter, but slips up and handles the ball. Carrick takes the freekicka dn he finds Scholes only for the midfielder to be immediately tripped by Crouch.
...Valencia takes it but it, somehow, misses everyone. Goal kick.
If something is going to happen for United, it is inevitably going to come through Scholes. Everything is going through him at the moment. Most recently he lays the ball off for Carrick to have a pop. It gets a deflection so it will be a corner...
The home support decide to make a noise and urge their team on as the quest to find a gap in the Stoke defence continues. Hernandez gets the better of Shawcross inside the area but is correctly called offside immediately.
Stoke are defending extremely well at the moment. United just cannot find a way through and spend nearly two full minutes just passing it infront of the area. No way though yet.
Wilson is ushered forward by the travelling support and gets the better of Park on the left before sending in a hanging across towards the penalty area, but Jones deals with it with ease. Stoke are growing in confidence with United barely into first gear so far.
Berbatov fails to find Scholes with the second part of a one-two on the edge of the Stoke area and the away side break. Pennant runs 40, 50, 60 yards righ to the edge of the United area but then lets his team down with a sloppy pass out wide to Walters.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis said before the game that he has come to Old Trafford too many times with a defensive mindset, which is why he is playing two up front tonight. I wonder how much seeing Amos' inclusion in goal had on that decision...
Suddenly a decent chance for Stoke as Pennant tears up field and finds Crouch 25 yards out, the striker then, in turn, finds Jones in space running on the outside. His strike partner has a shot and it fizzes past Amos' goal. Not a bad chance at all.
Scholes decides to cut out the midfield this time around and sends a delicious ball over the top towards Hernandez, but Wilkinson cuts it out with his head before clearing up and passing back to Sorensen to complete the job.
It's very gritty in the centre of the park at the moment as United try to, typically, pass their way through but Stoke, typically, hoof it long to clear at every opportunity. Apart from just a moment ago, Hernandez struggling to get a sight of the ball, let alone a touch at the moment.
First half-chance for United as Berbatov and Hernandez combine on the edge of the area to tee up Park for a daisy-cutter, but it flies horribly wide. That was poor.
Some neat footwork from Carrick sends him away from a reckless lunge by Palacios, but the Englishman's next touch is heavy and Wilkinson clears.
...and Stoke City get us underway!
Mere minutes away from kick-off now. The teams are marching onto the pitch...
...and finally, Stoke have won five games out of five where they were winning at half-time. Manchester United have won 13 out of 14 times. The one game they ended up drawing was against Stoke back in September.
However, the Potters also have the highest rate of conceding goals in the opening 45 minutes of a league match.
Among all the clubs in the top-flight, Tony Pulis’ men have converted the most goals from set-piece situations this season.
If all games ended at half-time this season, United would have been at the top of the table.
Manchester United have won six and drawn one of seven games against Stoke City in the Premier League, conceding just three goals in the process.
It's stat time! Oh yes. Here is a few gems that you may not have been aware of...
Well, that didn't take as long as I'd hoped.
For Stoke... nothing.
For United, it's one in, one out as highly-rated forward Ravel Morrison has left for West Ham United, in a deal believed to be worth £1m, and 19-year-old Swiss central defender Freddie Veseli has crossed the Manchester divide to join from City in an undisclosed deal.
Kick-off is in 15 minutes, so why not let me update you on today's transfer news involving these two clubs? Ok...
You have to feel sorry for poor old Tomasz Kuszczak, the eternal back-up goalkeeper can't even be picked ahead of 21-year-old with a League appearance for the club.
For Stoke, Andy Wilkinson is preferred at right-back in place of the recently poor Jonathan Woodgate. Cameron Jerome has to make do with a place on the bench, despite scoring at the weekend, with Peter Crouch leading the line.
So, the BIG news is that both Anders Lindegaard and David De Gea are out of the game. Lindegaard is injured and De Gea is ill so Ben Amos comes in for his first start for the club. He has recently been on loan at League One side Oldham. Other that that for United, Rio Ferdinand makes his return after injury and Javier Hernandez is given the nod to try and turn around his fortunes in a disappointing season so far.
Sorensen; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Palacios, Whitehead, Walters; Jones, Crouch. subs: Begovic, Whelan, Fuller, Delap, Etherington, Jerome, Woodgate
...and now Stoke:
Amos, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Park, Hernandez, Berbatov. Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Welbeck, Fabio, Rafael, Pogba, W. Keane
Before I start my pre-match ramblings, let's get those line-ups out in the world. First up, home side, Manchester United...
Good evening all and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Stoke City, LIVE from Old Trafford.
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