The Latics entertained Stoke at the DW Stadium looking to build on their impressive win at Southampton last time out, unfortunately dodgy refereeing and a lapse of concentration meant that Martinez’s men had to be content with a share of the spoils
A bright start saw the Latics take the lead inside five minutes, at the end of a spell of pressure Maloney laid the ball off for McCarthy, the young midfield man struck a side-footed shot goalwards only for the ball to hit Huth’s outstretched arm, deliberate, no, penalty, yes, Huth’s arm was stretched way out and the ref had no option. Maloney stepped up, sent Begovic the wrong way, a perfect start, 1-0
Penalty number 2 should have been awarded minutes later when Di Santo was bundled to the floor by two Stoke defenders, blatant, referee five yards away clear view, gave a free kick to Stoke?
Beausejour had come into the Latics starting eleven in place of the suspended Alcaraz and he was giving Stoke lots of problems, from one of his left wing crosses Latics nearly made it two, Di Santo and Boyce having chances before the ball dropped to Koné who couldn’t quite bundle the ball over the line from six yards out and Begovic gathered.
Beausejour was on the end of some rough treatment from Stoke’s robust challenges and on 28 minutes he was forced to retire from the game being replaced by Dave Jones.
Latics neat passing game was in total contrast to the direct approach adopted by Stoke, Tony Pulis’ side don’t pull any punches, it is definitely a get it up there and let’s see what happens style. Also for such a big bunch of ruffians they don’t have hit the floor easily under the slightest of touches, both Crouch and Walters were guilty of some diving around that Tom Daly would have been proud of
From one such blatant dive an equaliser nearly came. Whitehead, under pressure from Figueroa tripped over fresh air, referee Martin Atkinson awarded Stoke the foul, from the resultant free kick the ball almost found its way in at the far post. When the equaliser did come that was from a harsh decision against Figueroa, Crouch bobbled the ball and it bounced in the area, striking Figueroa on the chest and then rolling on to his hand, Atkinson levelled the penalty count and pointed to the spot.
Jon Walters stepped up and hit the spot kick low and hard, Al Habsi almost got a hand to the ball but it found the back of the net, half-time 1-1
Within four minutes of the restart the Latics were back in front, following a Stoke corner Di Santo broke with the ball, he fed Koné out wide right, the Latics striker powered his way past two Stoke defenders on a great 40 yard run, into the box Koné squared for an inrushing Di Santo, the Argentine hit a sweet side foot from 20 yards that nestled in the bottom far corner of the net, 2-1
The game opened up quite a bit in the second half and there were chances at either end, though it looked more likely that the Latics would score rather than Stoke, unfortunately it was Crouch that found the net, a throw-in on the left, Walters lost Boyce, the ball was flicked to him by Jerome, Walters banged on in the middle and Crouch out jumped Figueroa six yards out, 2-2
Ryo Miyaichi was brought on to give the Latics more potency going forward and he was a threat, but it was Stoke that nearly snatched it at the end, Charlie Adam hit a 30 yard free kick that deflected off the head of Gary Caldwell, with the ball heading goalwards and wrong footing Al Habsi, the Omani shot stopper somehow managed to change direction and palm the ball away, a world class save
A very enjoyable game with end to end action and much promise for the season ahead.
Latics – Al Habsi, Kone, McCarthy, Caldwell (C), Di Santo (Miyaichi 80), Maloney, McArthur (Watson 76), Boyce, Ramis, Beausejour (Jones 29), Figueroa
Unused subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Gomez, Boselli
Stoke City – Begovic, Cameron, Huth, Whelan, Wilson, Shawcross (C), Whitehead, Walters, Kightly (Jerome 75), Crouch, Wilkinson (Adam 36)
Unsued Subs: Sorenson, Pennant, Jones, Edu, Upson
Latics and Proud
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