Stoke City 1
Whelan 71 mins
Barry 85 mins
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 16 February 2010 23:10
- Posted by David Clayton
Gareth Barry’s late equaliser moved City into the coveted fourth Champions League spot on a night that seemed to be turning sour for Roberto Mancini’s men.
With the hosts reduced to ten men for most of the second half, Glenn Whelan agonisingly fired Tony Pulis’ side into an unlikely lead and even after Barry’s leveller, the Potters thought they’d won the game with almost the last kick of the match.
With five changes from the FA Cup line-up at the weekend, there was more height and muscle to the starting XI Mancini selected for the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
Out went Wayne Bridge, Stephen Ireland, Pablo Zabaleta, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Martin Petrov and in came Micah Richards, Adam Johnson, Javier Garrido, Patrick Vieira and Roque Santa Cruz.
Stoke went into the game in fine form having avoided defeat in eight league and cup matches – unbeaten in 2010 no less - and began the game with an expected aerial bombardment into the Blues' box.
In fact, the Potters should have gone ahead with barely four minutes when the unmarked Mamady Sidibe shot straight at Shay Given from six yards out. Two minutes later former City midfielder Whelan also should have done better from close range.
The packed and noisy Britannia Stadium - surely a contender with Oldham's Boundary Park for the title of 'Coldest Ground in England' - made for a hostile atmosphere for the visitors.
Delap's throw-ins were a constant threat, but as City continued to weather the early pressure without conceding, they could at least take comfort from the fact that only Portsmouth and Wolves had scored less Premier League goals this season.
City occasionally broke with purpose but Stoke's attacks carried more menace, though neither keeper was really tested in the first 45 minutes and the hosts' attacks gradually subsided.
Seven minutes after the break, the complexion of the game changed completely. Adebayor chased a long through ball with Abdoulaye Faye. Racing neck-and-neck, the Togolese striker gradually edged ahead of the Stoke skipper and Faye appeared to tug him to the ground.
Initially, referee Alan Wiley saw the challenge to be a fair one, but called a halt to play when his assistant flagged for his attention. Moments later Faye, who had been the last defender, was heading for an early bath with a stright red card shown for his misdemeanour.
Substitutions for both teams immediately followed with Liam Lawrence making way for Salif Diao and Wright-Phillips replacing Garrido as the Blues sniffed the chance of three points.
The dismissal seemed to lift Stoke more than the Blues who, despite camping in the Potters' half for 15 minutes, couldn't find a way through a packed and committed defence.
Then, on 71 minutes, a poor clearance from Johnson found Whelan who took aim and fired a low drive from 25 yards past Given to hand Stoke an unlikely lead on 71 minutes. It was typical that a side who spend so much energy on set-pieces should score with such a sublime strike from open play.
With the home fans in raptures, the Blues looked shaken and bereft of ideas. The thought of another demoralising defeat on the road seemed to consume them for the next 10 minutes or so until - at last - the breakthrough.
With four minutes remaining, substitute Pablo Zabaleta’s lofted cross found Adebayor who in turn flicked it into the path of Barry. The England midfielder's scrambled shot struck the post but he still managed to prod home the rebound to level the score.
The travelling fans now allowed themselves to think of three points rather than none, particularly when 24,000 home fans groaned at the five minutes of added time announcement
Yet there was still time for one more scare. Delap won a throw-in by the corner flag with 95 minutes on the clock. He dried the ball, stepped back and launched the ball into the box for Ryan Shawcross to head home at the far post.
With the home fans going crazy, referee Wiley stood with his arm pointing towards the centre - but not for a goal - for a foul, much to the fury of the home fans and the relief of those travelling from Manchester. Seconds later it was all over.
The battle resumes next Wednesday!