Monday 19 February 2018

Walters notches memorable brace to set up first FA Cup final showdown for Stoke

Bolton 0
Stoke City 5

Jason Burt

Never mind Delilah, this was delirious. Having seen Bolton dismantled in 30 minutes, Stoke fans had an hour of this encounter in which to celebrate their first FA Cup final appearance. Ever. That is one long wait for a club established in 1863.

At the final whistle, the Stoke faithful trumped their earlier reveries.

"Why, why, why," sang the supporters as they reprised the Tom Jones song that has become their anthem. Having retreated to the dressing-rooms, Bolton manager Owen Coyle was probably imploring in a similar way.

Stoke tuned in, Bolton dropped out. This was a complete mismatch and, as superbly as the victors played in achieving the biggest semi-final victory since Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Grimsby Town in 1939, Bolton were simply appalling.

They failed to turn up and their supporters, with only a smattering left by the end, will have wished they had not done so either.

Stoke plundered three goals in 19 first-half minutes and two more after the break. This is rarely charted territory for Stoke -- they previously reached the semi-final only in 1899, 1971 and 1972 -- but this was not a novice performance.

They deserved the right to face Manchester City. Their wingers, Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, were rampant and aided by striker Kenwyne Jones. All three scored.

Their outstanding accomplice, Jon Walters, got two goals on a day when the four Irishmen in the starting line-up -- Walters, Glenn Whelan, Rory Delap and Marc Wilson -- aquitted themselves superbly. Pennant, the would-be Irishman, might even make it five.

This was a marvellous reward for manager Tony Pulis, who has done so much to restore the fortunes of the club. He will also have surprised people with the expansive football his team played. His tactics, particularly the way Kevin Davies was stifled, were spot on.

In truth, Bolton were the cloggers with a cynical challenge from Paul Robinson -- who was hopeless throughout -- ending Pennant's involvement.

Bolton were too open, too naive. They dearly missed the injured Stuart Holden and the ineligible Daniel Sturridge but they should have provided a greater resistance than this.

Never mind the long throw for Stoke; what about the long shot? There were two early, glorious strikes, although both owed much to Bolton's woeful defending. For the first, Robinson played the ball back across the edge of his area and behind Elmander.

Etherington collected possession and thrashed a fierce left-foot shot that caught out Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Then, after one of those Rory Delap throw-ins was only half-cleared, Andy Wilkinson hoisted a high ball back towards goal. Gary Cahill headed out weakly and straight to Robert Huth, who struck a first-time half-volley that took a bounce and deceived Jaaskelainen.

Bolton were reeling. Panic spread and the hapless Martin Petrov was easily brushed off the ball by Pennant, who was allowed to run unchallenged from deep before threading a pass through the heart of the Bolton defence to Jones, who calmly side-footed home.

By now Coyle, usually such a jack-in-the-box on the touchline, had retreated to his dugout and barely moved, rubbing his temples in disbelief. The game was up. It was simply a question of whether Stoke would attempt to add to their tally, and they did.

Delap played a simple pass to Walters. From inside the Stoke half, he ran through, easily evading substitute Mark Davies, and curled a right-footed shot from the edge of the area. The shell-shocked Jaaskelainen was beaten again.

Walters then got his second. This time Jones burst down the right and pulled the ball back. The Irishman adjusted his feet and chipped an effort back across goal and into the net.

Tom Jones was not the only inspiration for the Stoke fans. "Stoke will tear you apart again," they chanted, borrowing from Joy Division. Their joy was unbridled last night. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport