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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:00 19th April 2014

Potters Pick Up A Point

BIRTHDAY BOY Marko Arnautovic secured his side a deserved share of the spoils from Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter against struggling Cardiff City.

The Austrian international fired home his fourth goal for the Club from the penalty spot deep into first half stoppage time after former Bluebirds ace Peter Odemwingie was tripped inside the 18-yard box.

Peter Whittingham drew the hosts level with a spot-kick of his own five minutes after the interval, with referee Howard Webb adjudging Steven Nzonzi to have needlessly brought down Fraizer Campbell.

Jordan Mutch saw a header correctly chalked off for offside five minutes later, before substitute Oussama Assaidi presented himself with a glorious opportunity to have claimed all three points for his side in the dying stages.

Mark Hughes opted to name an unchanged side prior to kick-off, resisting any temptation to recall Wilson Palacios having started the Honduran ace in each of the Potters last two away fixtures.

There was a change to the Welshman's matchday squad however, with on-loan Liverpool winger Assaidi taking up a spot amongst the substitutes at the expense of American international Brek Shea.

Buoyed by their pivotal 1-0 triumph at Southampton a week earlier, it was no surprise to see the home side asking the majority of the questions during the opening exchanges of this particular encounter.

Some slick interchange between Brazilian full-back Fabio and the lively Mats Daehli culminated in the Norwegian starlet firing just wide of Asmir Begovic's goal in the third minute as the hosts looked to capitalise upon their bright start.

Soon after, the highly rated midfielder turned provider to free Mutch through on goal with a sublime ball through the Stoke rearguard, but thankfully Begovic came to his side's rescue with a crucial save down to his right.

Despite a sluggish start from the visitors they soon began to pose a threat to the home side with Arnautovic doing his best to ignite his side with his pace and trickery out wide.

It was the player on the opposite flank, Odemwingie, who very nearly had the biggest influence on the game though, as he brought the best out of David Marshall with a rasping effort from 25-yards after being teed up by Stephen Ireland.

Arnautovic was growing in stature and confidence as the afternoon progressed, and it was he who whipped across a peach of a delivery to Peter Crouch, although the England ace was unable to make the required contact to trouble the Bluebirds number one, Marshall.

At the other end Begovic was forced into producing the save of the game to fingertip Whittingham's goal-bound free-kick on to the post, just as the winger had began to turn around and celebrate what he thought was the opener.

Hughes was forced into making his first change of the game with Pieters having to be replaced by Marc Muniesa shortly before the break, with the Dutch star appearing to be struggling with illness.

The Spaniard very nearly opened his account for the Club soon after his arrival, thumping a powerful effort towards the top left hand corner of the net, only for Steven Caulker to inadvertently divert the ball inches over the bar.

From the resulting corner, Crouch again went close to troubling Marshall after meeting Ireland's tempting delivery, but it was Odemwingie who picked up the loose ball and was clumsily hacked down inside the 18-yard box leaving referee Howard Webb with no alternative than to award the spot-kick.

Arnautovic, celebrating his 25th birthday, confidently took grasp of the ball, placed it down, took two steps back and stroked his effort straight down the centre of the net to edge his side in front.

That incident proved to be the final of an entertaining first 45 minutes, and it wasn't long until further drama unfolded during the opening exchanges of the second period when Webb equaled things up by awarding the home side a penalty, which of course Whittingham dispatched.

The goal lifted the spirits of the Cardiff faithful inside the stadium and there joy turned to delirium when Mutch finally got the better of the brilliant Begovic, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.

Republic of Ireland international tried his luck from range, but to no avail, whilst Ireland, who penned a new deal with the Potters earlier in the week, curled over from range after manoeuvring space for himself.

As had been the case during the opening half, the Potters began to grow in stature as it wore on, and again went close to regaining the lead through Arnautovic, who whipped an audacious effort just over from 20-yards.

Solskjaer thrust Wilfried Zaha into action shortly before the 70 minute mark in a bid to reinvigorate his side, and it almost turned out to be a masterstroke as the on-loan Manchester United forward cut inside and fired a thunderous strike across goal, thankfully evading the outstretched Mutch.

Hughes made a couple of changes of his own as he sensed that all three points were there for the taking by welcoming Assaidi and Jonthan Walters back into the fray, following their spells on the sidelines through injury and suspension.

Former Potter Kenwyne Jones was brought on for the hosts with ten minutes remaining, but it was the recently introduced Stoke pair who very nearly had the biggest telling factor on the outcome of the game.

After Odemwingie had forced Marshall into another superb save in the 86th minute, Assaidi danced his way past two defenders and found himself in a one-on-one with the Scotland stopper, but with the goal at his mercy he fired straight at the 'keeper, before Juan Cala hacked the ball away from danger.

Then, with just 90 seconds of the four minutes of added time remaining, Walters evaded a challenge from Caulker and let rip a powerful strike that beat Marshall, but disappointingly for him, and the travelling 2,000 Stoke supporters, the crossbar came to the home side's rescue.















    QUICK FACTS

    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955