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23:05 21st December 2011

Leaders End City's Winning Run

STOKE CITY'S four game winning run came to a halt at Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening... as Roberto Mancini's side recorded a relatively comfortable 3-0 victory.

A brace from Sergio Aguero, either side of an Adam Johnson thunderbolt, was enough to secure the hosts all three points from the clash and ensure that they ended the calendar year with the impeccable record of having not lost a single home game in 2011.

Tony Pulis was forced into a number of changes to his starting eleven with skipper Ryan Shawcross ruled out through suspension, whilst Glenn Whelan and Peter Crouch were also absent because of injury.

Wilson Palacios came into the side to make his first league start of the term at the expense of Whelan, whilst Matthew Upson and Kenwyne Jones were also called into the line-up. Matthew Etherington was rested, with his usual spot on the wing going to summer signing Cameron Jerome.

Something was always going to give at the Etihad Stadium, whether it be the hosts remarkable 15 game winning sequence on home turf, or the Potters record run of four successive Premier League victories.

In all honesty, the latter appeared the most likely to come to an end from the very first minute, as the league leaders displayed composure and patience on the ball in a bid to find a way through what had initially appeared to have been a rugged and determined Stoke backline.

Former Middlesbrough winger Johnson had already rifled an effort off the crossbar, albeit via an almighty deflection off of Marc Wilson, whilst Samir Nasri fired just wide from a tight angle before Roberto Mancini's side finally took the lead just short of the half hour mark.

The goal had a hint of controversy about it though as scorer Aguero had appeared to be in an offside position when he tapped home Yaya Toure's ball across goal, however, referee Mike Dean and his assistant both adjudged the Argentine to have been in front of the last Potters defender.

If Pulis' brave troops were to still harbour hopes of dragging themselves back into the encounter following that opener, their chances of doing so were extinguished less than five minutes later as Johnson drilled the ball into the bottom corner from 25-yards after being freed by Toure.

A brief Stoke resurgence saw them cause one or two moments of panic amongst the City rearguard, but it was at the other end that chances continued to flow with Johnson and David Silva both warming the hands of Sorensen before the break.

The interval had given the visitors time to regroup and conjure up a plan to disrupt the free-scoring league leaders; but it failed to bring a change to the proceedings as City continued to look the more likely of the two teams to grab the third goal of the evening.

Aguero went close in the 50th minute by forcing Sorensen into a save down to his left, but there was nothing he could do minutes later as Barry and Nasri linked up superbly well to feed City's top goal-scorer inside the six-yard box and gift him with the simplest of tasks of tapping into an empty net.

More slick interchange between the lively trio of Aguero, Toure and Silva could, and maybe should, have culminated in a fourth on the hour mark but Aguero dinked the ball past Sorensen, but also past the post, after being neatly played through.

Gareth Barry had an opportunity ten minutes later thanks to a sublime ball into the box by Aguero, however, Sorensen was equal to his close range effort and managed to parry his goal-bound effort wide of the post.

The introduction of Ricardo Fuller and Jermaine Pennant added guile to Stoke's attack, but even they failed to stamp their mark on the encounter as the formidable pairing of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott gave as good as they got against the pacy and tricky pair.

Further chances came for the hosts to extend their advantage as the game drew to a close with substitute Mario Balotelli going the closest, as his stinging effort in stoppage time cannoned back away from goal off of the legs of Sorensen.

Whilst the result brought an end to the Potters' good run of form, they were far from disgraced, and will now look forward to the forthcoming festive double header at the Britannia Stadium against Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic.

    Data provided by Press Association


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