Late goal gives Roy Hodgson's side hope in relegation scrap
On-loan Carlos Vela salvaged a draw for struggling West Brom, which has kept Roy Hodgson's side floating a point above the relegation zone.
In a game that took forever to ignite, Stoke fans had to wait until the 52nd minute for Rory Delap to score with his head from close range after finding himself on the end of an in-swinging corner from Jermaine Pennant.
Vela, on loan from Arsenal, came off of the bench late in the game and scored with three minutes of normal time remaining, securing a valuable point for West Brom in their battle against the drop.
Stoke looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening twenty minutes, winning a number of set-pieces in dangerous positions and a handful of long throws from Delap penetrating the West Brom penalty area – but Scott Carson stood firm in the Baggies’ goal mouth, him and his defenders managing to clear most deliveries with ease.
Youssuf Mulumbu earned himself a yellow card – having all ready seen two reds this season - for bringing down Kenwyne Jones as Stoke countered a rare West Brom attack. The resulting free kick, 25 yards outside the Baggies’ area, was taken by Pennant – who managed to beat the wall but not Carson in what was the games’ first shot on target.
West Brom had to wait a little longer - just before the half hour mark - for their first chance on target. Chris Brunt picked up the ball in a central position ten yards inside of the Stoke half and penetrated the home team’s defensive line with a diagonal run out towards the left wing before cutting back inside, beating his man and delivering a low shot from eight yards out which was comfortably saved by Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal.
West Brom began to push on in to the opposition half more and more and in quick succession had another chance on goal when Jerome Thomas on the right wing found Marc-Antoine Fortune on the edge of the Stoke penalty area. The striker looked to sneak the ball inside of Begovic’s near post and would of succeeded, but for a commanding save from the Bosnian ‘keeper.
West Brom’s Brunt found himself in the book with four minutes of the first half to play for jumping into Pennant a few yards off of the right corner of his own penalty area, and it was the fouled Pennant who stepped up to take the freekick. Again he managed to beat the Baggies’ wall, but the ball didn’t drop quickly enough and Carson in goal watched as the freekick grazed the top of his cross bar.
Close range | Delap pounces in the box to put Stoke ahead
Eight minutes after the restart, Stoke took the lead. From a Pennant corner, Delap stood tight to West Brom's Carson and managed to get his head to the ball before the goalkeeper.
Graham Dorrans nearly pulled one back for the visitors five minutes later, finding himself on the end of a cross from Mulumbu and powering a header at the Stoke goal. Having taken a heavy deflection from Ryan Shawcross on the way through, the ball found its way on to Begovic’s legs as the ‘keeper made an inspired reaction save.
Brunt had an effort from range pushed out by Begovic, after powering a shot from just outside of the area which dipped sharply only to be parried by Begovic.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, West Brom battled to get the game back on level terms. Fortune saw his looping header hit the cross bar and out for a goal kick after Mulumbu’s cross was met by the striker eight yards out from the centre of Stoke’s goal.
Three minutes from time Vela esured Hogson's side remained clear of the relegation by snatching the draw.
Much to the dismay of the Stoke defenders who felt Vela was offside, the Mexican received the ball on the edge of Stoke's six-yard box and blasted past Begovic.
A late scramble in front of the Stoke goalmouth nearly saw the Baggies take all three points, but for some truly heroic goalkeeping from Begovic.