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17:45 15th August 2009

Stoke City 2 Burnley 0

STOKE CITY kicked off the 2009-10 Barclays Premier League campaign in perfect fashion after claiming a fully deserved 2-0 win over newly promoted Burnley, and temporarily moving joint top.

Ryan Shawcross' header put the Potters in the driving seat after 19 minutes, before a trademark Rory Delap long throw-in was glanced into his own net by defender Stephen Jordan shortly after.

City could have added to the goals tally through Ricardo Fuller and Dave Kitson, whilst the visitors, who have already been heavily tipped for the drop, far from disgraced themselves in their first match back in the top flight for 33-years.

Ahead of the game manager Tony Pulis was handed a major boost with the news that Danny Higginbotham had passed a late fitness test, after a hamstring injury initially appeared to have kept him sidelined.

He appeared alongside new captain Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross, with Andy Wilkinson getting the nod over Andy Griffin and Ryan Shotton to start off at right back. In midfield Liam Lawrence started out on the wide right whilst Matthew Etherington occupied the left flank.

In the middle Dean Whitehead was handed his Potters debut alongside Rory Delap, who was preferred to Glenn Whelan after he played 90 minutes for the Republic of Ireland during their 3-0 loss to Australia on Wednesday.

Despite the impressive pre-season form of Kitson, Pulis opted to start Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie in attack following their goal-scoring exploits during the second half of last season.

A typically electric Britannia Stadium atmosphere which made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck welcomed the players onto the pitch as both sets of supporters really made themselves heard, after waiting almost three months for Saturday's big kick off.

When the game did eventually get underway, it was in fact the hosts who started the brighter of the two sides with the evergreen Robbie Blake causing a number of early problems. The former Bradford star, now in his second spell with the Clarets, fired an effort goalwards which was brilliantly blocked by Wilkinson before he forced Thomas Sorensen into a superb save moments later with a stinging effort from 25-yards.

City soon settled down though with Etherington and Fuller in particular looking lively in attack. A couple of dangerous balls into the penalty area caused brief moments of panic amongst the Burnley backline before Lawrence's dangerous ball into the danger zone was met by the unmarked Shawcross, who brilliantly directed his header beyond Brian Jensen and into the bottom left hand corner to put the Potters ahead.

The goal evidently injected a new lease of life into the side, who began to dominate the game with Whitehead looking impressive in his first league start following his potential £5 million switch from Sunderland in the summer.

Buoyed by Shawcross' header, City set off in search of a second mid-way through the first half with Fuller using his pace and trickery to full extent, before slipping a superb ball through to Etherington, who beat Clarke Carlisle and fired goalwards, only for Christian Kalvenes to brilliantly deflect his effort just wide of the post.

Owen Coyle's side began to find life in the Premier League tough as City continued to bombard their penalty area. And a second goal looked increasingly likely as the Burnley backline looked nervous. When it did finally come just after the half hour mark, it was no surprise that it came from another set-piece. Delap launched a throw-in deep into the Burnley six-yard box and Jordan glanced the ball into the back of his own net as he looked to clear the danger from the fast approaching Beattie.

The visitors desperately tried to forge an opening in the tight City backline, but couldn't do so, instead having to resort to long range strikes with Blake going the closest. Wade Elliott, who scored the historic goal at Wembley which secured a place in the top flight for the visitors, then fired just wide after Paterson fired across a pin-point ball into the penalty area.

Disaster nearly struck for the Clarets right on the stroke of half time as a rampant City almost extended their advantage to three after another set-piece caused absolute havoc amongst the Clarets backline. A deep free-kick from Higginbotham was met by the head of Fuller, who looped the ball over Jensen, only for Carlisle to acrobatically clear the ball off the line.

The start of the second half brought about no changes for either side, and Burnley's players looked a lot livelier and looked a lot more settled into their Premier League bow. Elliott fired inches over the bar from 30-yards minutes into the second period and went just as close shortly after with a half volley which Sorensen had to be alert to, to palm away.

The visitors were having their share of position without really causing the City rearguard to many problems. Chris Eagles was introduced from the substitutes bench as Coyle looked to find that crucial breakthrough and he tested Sorensen immediately with a good effort from 20-yards.

Skipper Faye was lucky to still be on the field after rashly lunging in at Eagles moments after receiving a yellow card, and had his strike found the back of the net, rather than the back of the stand in the 68th minute, then Burnley's fans would have quite rightly have felt aggrieved.

Coyle through his last throw of the dice in a bid to pick up something from their opening day encounter in the Potteries when he introduced new summer signing Fernando Guerro mid-way through the second half. The lively Ecuadorian looked dangerous and almost pulled the Clarets back into the game with an audacious effort which dipped over Sorensen, but thankfully fell the wrong side of the post.

Lawrence then blazed over after Fuller cleverly picked him out, before Blake again went close for the visitors with an effort from 18-yards which Sorensen did well to gather down at his near post.

The introduction of Kitson late on was met by a rousing reception from the City faithful and he almost immediately responded to them by smashing the ball against the crossbar after cleverly getting the better of Carlisle 15-yards out.

Four minutes of additional time were added, and fellow substitute Richard Cresswell almost put the icing on the cake from an acute angle, however, after twisting Carlisle inside out he dragged his effort inches wide of Jensen's left hand post.


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