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02:02 18th April 2011

Rampant City Make History

FIVE STAR Stoke City wrote their name into the history books by clinching a first FA Cup Final appearance in their 148-year history . . . and they did it in some style by demolishing Bolton Wanderers to spark wild celebrations at Wembley Stadium.

Tony Pulis' side laid the ghost of the early seventies to rest in stunning fashion to book a return visit to Wembley in four weeks time to face Manchester City, the team they were supposed to face in the Barclays Premier League on that very day.

It was not just the fact that they made history by clinching the final place, it was the way in which they did it which made it so remarkable as they recorded the biggest FA Cup semi-final victory since 1939 when Wolves beat Grimsby Town.

The army of 34,000 supporters were in sheer ecstacy as the Potters romped into a three-goal lead inside the first half hour with Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones all producing excellent finishes to leave Bolton shell-shocked.

The icing was then put on the cake by Jon Walters, a former Bolton player, who curled home two shots in the second half to put City in dreamland.

Not surprisingly, Etherington was named the Man-of-the-Match after both he and Jermaine Pennant caused havoc down both flanks for the Bolton defence.

There were no surprises in Pulis' starting line-up, with the only change from the Tottenham match being the anticipated one of Sorensen replacing Begovic, but City were boosted by the presence of loan striker Carew on the bench to give them another attacking option.

As expected, the City following of 34,000 fans created a deafening roar as the teams made their way out onto the pitch, all of which must have been a massive boost to the players, especially as it was clear that they outnumbered the supporters from their opponents.

Bolton launched the first attack when they played the ball up to Davies who flicked it on but Huth was on hand to shepherd the ball behind for a goal kick.

Huth was on hand to clear the danger again when Wanderers played the ball into the box for Klasnic and he attempted to make room for himself.

The first threat from City came they awarded a free kick inside the Bolton half but Pennant's delivery wasn't good enough to trouble the Bolton defence.

The Potters then almost caught the Bolton defence napping when Etherington took a quick free kick into Walters who had peeled off his defender, but he tried a shot from the left hand edge of the box which Jaaskelainen saved as he rushed off his line.

City had to soak up some pressure when Cahill had a sniff of a chance which led to two successive corners sent over by Petrov and it was the England defender who eventually tried his luck from 20 yards which flew over the bar.

Bolton then carved out another opening which culminated in Elmander trying his luck from long range but Sorensen gathered quite comfortably.

It was the Denmark international who set City on their way with a long ball upfield for Jones who chested it down and volleyed his shot high and wide.

Moments later though, the Potters took the lead as Etherington followed up his fine goal at Tottenham with another stunning effort.

After some approach work from Pennant and Walters, the ball broke for the left winger 25 yards out and he unleashed a blistering drive past Jaaskelainen.

That breakthrough came in the twelfth minute and Bolton looked ruffled as the Potters sensed the opportunity to take a grip of the semi-final.

Five minutes later, it was 2-0 as Wilkinson hooked a high ball into the box and Cahill appeared to climb all over two Stoke players on the edge of the area.

Referee Webb allowed to play go on as the ball broke to Huth and he lashed a shot on the volley which flew beyond the despairing dive of Jaaskelainen.

Bolton tried to steady themselves and exerted some pressure on the City defence in search of a way back into the game, but Sorensen's handling was assured on a couple of occasions when Elmander tried to conjure something out of nothing.

In soaking up that pressure, the Potters were looking to catch Bolton on the break and it paid off on the half hour to put them in firm control.

Pennant's surging run upfield exploited the space available to him before slipping through a pass which left Jones one-on-one with the 'keeper and he kept his nerve to calmly slot his shot past the Finnish international to give City a three-goal cushion.

The same combination then fashioned another opening to make it 4-0, but on this occasion Jones slid his shot inches wide of the far post.

If anything, the Potters looked more likely to add to their lead and the frustration was beginning to surface among a number of the Bolton players.

But the first priority was to get to half-time without giving Bolton any encouragement whatsoever and that objective was achieved with relative comfort.

Not surprisingly, when the two teams emerged after half time, Wanderers had made two changes with Taylor and Mark Davies replacing Klasnic and Petrov.

The Potters started as they intended to go on by pegging Bolton back and two long throw-ins into the box caused problems for their defenders.

Although Shawcross eventually headed the second one across goal, there was nobody at the far post to take advantage and Kevin Davies cleared the ball.

When Walters flicked on a long ball forward to the edge of the box, Jones had a sniff of a chance, but Cahill was alert to that situation and cleared upfield.

A reminder to City that they still needed to stay on top of their game came in the 50th minute when Mark Davies seized upon a mistake from Pennant and burst to the edge of the box, but his eventual shot was sliced well wide of the target.

The encouraging thing was that City were doing all the pressing once again when Bolton needed to be up the other end of the field and Etherington burst forward before mishitting his attempted cross into the box which looped up to the far post.

Jaaskelainen somehow made a mess of it and Walters was able to regain possession to set up Jones whose shot was blocked by the lunge of a Bolton defender.

City then had another excellent chance to put the issue beyond all doubt as Walters got clear only to have his first shot blocked, but he retrieved the situation to set up Jones at the far post, but it came to him at an awkward height and he stabbed it wide.

However, City had one foot in the FA Cup Final moments later when Walters advanced forward again and cut inside before curling a low shot beyond the reach of Jaaskelainen who yet again was beaten by a shot inside his left hand post.

The goal signalled an exodus from the Bolton fans, while the jubilant City supporters had Wembley rocking as they sensed a return for the final was in their grasp.

Bolton must have known it just wasn't going to be their day when Taylor found space to unleash a shot but Sorensen pulled off a fine save.

If there was any doubt whatsoever about the outcome then Walters put it beyond all question when he produced a cool finish beyond Jaaskelainen after Jones burst down the right and sent over a low cross which Wilkinson of all people deflected into the grateful striker's path.

    Data provided by Press Association


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