FC SION 0
STOKE CITY 1 (Etherington pen 38)
A WELL-TAKEN Matthew Etherington penalty was enough to ensure Stoke City kicked off their pre-season programme in perfect fashion against FC Sion in Switzerland on Thursday evening.
The winger capped a lively display with a clinically dispatched spot kick just before the interval after Portuguese defender Jose Goncalves handled under pressure from Kenwyne Jones.
The victory, in front of around 200 spectators in the picturesque village of Saxon, was no less than Tony Pulis' side deserved, having handled the extremely windy conditions very well.
Sion came into the clash three weeks ahead of the Potters in terms of their preparations for the new campaign, however, it was Stoke who looked the sharper and fitter of the sides in this encounter.
The opening period was void of too many clear-cut chances before Etherington's strike, but the early half chances that did come along fell to the Potters.
Player of the Year Peter Crouch was unlucky not to have made contact with a vicious Etherington centre ten minutes in, whilst Marc Wilson fired wide from 20-yards soon after.
Stoke continued to dominate the possession stats throughout the half as they played with belief and composure, though they were handed a scare on the half hour mark when Asmir Begovic was forced into a fine save to deny Vasha Bullnet.
That proved to be the Bosnian international's only major issue during a relatively untroubled 45 minutes.
The half drew to its climax moments after Etherington had swept his spot-kick into the top right hand corner of the net.
Changes were aplenty for Stoke early in the second half as Pulis utilised his 20 man playing squad, with just Carlo Nash, Jamie Ness and Mamady Sidibe failing to feature in the encounter.
Cameron Jerome, who was one of nine second half substitutes cut an imposing figure during his spell of action, as his strength and pace caused the Sion rearguard no end of problems.
In fact, it was the former England Under-21 international who came closest to doubling the advantage on the hour mark as he turned inside the box and curled an effort straight towards the far corner, only for the Swiss stopper to brilliantly palm his strike away.
To their credit, the hosts gave as good as they got during the final half hour of the clash, but they rarely threatened to breach the goal of substitute Thomas Sorensen.
Danny Higginbotham bravely blocked a goalbound effort as Sion pressed for a leveller before Max Veloso fired a dipping half-volley over the bar from 25-yards.
The referee waved away half hearted penalty appeals from the Sion players in the dying stages, as Stoke held on to wrap up an impressive victory against the two time Swiss Super League champions.
CITY: Begovic (Sorensen), Shotton (Wilkinson 50 mins), Upson (Collins 50 mins), Shawcross (Huth 50 mins), Wilson (Higginbotham 50 mins), Delap, Whitehead (Arismendi (57 mins), Palacios (Tonge 57 mins), Etherington (Pennant 45 mins), Crouch (Jerome 57 mins), Jones.