Flores lets his football do the talking
Published 12/02/2014 | 22:22
Swansea bad-boy Chico Flores finally made the headlines for all the right reasons after a month to forget for the Spaniard.
At a blustery Britannia Stadium, with the game only going ahead after two pre-match safety inspections given the storm-force winds prior to kick-off, Flores deservedly earned Swansea a point from a 1-1 draw with Stoke.
Prior to grabbing his third goal of the season, the past month had proven to be a wretched one for the 26-year-old.
Chico was at the heart of controversy that resulted in West Ham's desperate bid to overturn a three-match ban for Andy Carroll after the two clashed in a 2-0 defeat for the Swans on February 1, with the defender over-reacting to a challenge.
Chico was also apparently involved in a training ground bust-up with Garry Monk prior to Monk being made interim manager.
Monk recently insisted the incident had been blown out of all proportion and that he and Chico were all smiles again.
Chico then duly played his part in Saturday's thumping 3-0 south Wales derby win over Cardiff as Monk began his managerial career with a bang after taking up the reins from the sacked Michael Laudrup.
And he was in the right place at the right time to deftly flick home a Pablo Hernandez cross beyond the despairing reach of Asmir Begovic in the 52nd minute to keep Swansea in 10th place.
Arguably, Swansea should have won the game as they were the better team for the most part, aside from one spell in the first half when Peter Crouch bagged his eighth goal of the season in the 17th minute.
Crouch first teed up Peter Odemwingie for a thumping right-foot drive that crashed back off the post straight to the lanky striker whose follow-up deflected off a diving Leon Britton trying to block.
Around 90 minutes before kick-off, it appeared highly likely the game would be called off given the battering the stadium received from the winds.
Perched on high ground, Stoke's home venue is renowned as one of the bleakest in the country.
So given its exposure to the elements there was every chance it would fall by the wayside, as had two other top-flights matches at Manchester City and Everton.
But after surviving the two safety inspections, in fairness, the ferocity of the wind had eased by kick-off, although there were still gusts on occasion.
For the players it became a simple matter of keeping the ball on the ground, and in the opening exchanges it was Swansea who fared the better with such a task.
It was Stoke, though, who carved out the first chance, with Charlie Adam firing in an angled 20-yard drive in the 10th minute that was smartly smothered by Michael Vorm down at his right-hand post.
Then came Crouch's opener, and it could have been 2-0 in the 20th minute but for Vorm tipping a dipping 20-yard effort from Marko Arnautovic over his crossbar.
Swansea's best chance of the half came when Nathan Dyer flashed a 20-yard drive of his own across goal, with Begovic at full stretch.
Two minutes beforehand a petulant kick from Adam on Dyer, that earned the Scotland midfielder a yellow card, sparked a melee that also led to Swansea captain Ashley Williams having his name taken by referee Jonathan Moss.
In control at the end of the first half, though, Swansea were out of the blocks at the start of the second, with Wilfried Bony firing just over the angle of bar and post from the edge of the area 90 seconds in.
Five minutes later and up popped Chico with the equaliser, and at that stage Stoke were undeniably second best all over the pitch.
That forced boss Mark Hughes into making a double swap soon after, with Steven Nzonzi and Oussama Assaidi on for Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters.
Four minutes after his introduction, Nzonzi should have been on the scoresheet, but both he and Crouch were inches away from steering in an enticing cross from Adam.
Twelve minutes from time and Swansea thought they had the winner when a Bony shot was nudged goalwards by Begovic, only for captain Ryan Shawcross to hook off the line.
Then in the 86th minute Begovic pulled off a stunning save to deny substitute Jonathan de Guzman from 22 yards.
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