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Bleak day in South Wales

Robert Huth looks to block an attempt on goal by Pablo Hernandez

Image by: Action Images

PUBLISHED

17:39 19th January 2013

Owen goal is small consolation for third successive League defeat

MICHAEL OWEN’S 150th Premier League goal and his first for Stoke City was nothing more than a consolation effort as a pretty bleak January continued at the Liberty Stadium.


The England striker glanced home a Cameron Jerome cross in injury-time to reduce the deficit as City slipped to their third successive defeat in the Premier League this month.


The Potters were undone by two-goal Jonathan de Guzman after defender Ben Davies had broken the deadlock for the Swans shortly after the half-time interval.


City had been somewhat fortunate to go in at the break on level terms, especially after the in-form Michu had wasted a glorious close range chance, but it proved to be a temporary reprieve as Michael Laudrup’s side made their dominance count in the second half.


Owen had been one of three strikers thrown on by Tony Pulis in an attempt to give themselves a glimmer of hope and it was he who was on hand to turn in Jerome’s cross.


The defeat means that City’s fortunes in the Premier League have taken a downturn since the start of the year, having finished 2012 off with a 10-match unbeaten run.


Pulis was forced to employ Whitehead as a stand-in right back when both Wilkinson and Shotton failed fitness tests on their injury problems, while Crouch was preferred to Jones as the spearhead of City’s attack among the other changes.


The Potters found themselves under immediate pressure from the kick-off, although Hernandez was adjudged to have been offside as he latched onto a pass from Ki and fired a low shot across Begovic but also just wide of the far post.


There was another scare for City when Shechter laid off a square pass to Michu in a menacing position on the edge of box, but the striker’s left foot shot was somewhat wayward and failed to cause Begovic any problems.


A burst down the left hand side by Etherington posed the first real threat from City, and although the winger was eventually closed down by Monk, it signalled a period in which they managed to exert some pressure on the home side.


Despite the fact that Swansea had plenty of possession in the opening quarter of the game, the Potters’ workrate ensured that they were being closed down at every opportunity and Ki resorted to firing high and wide from long range.


A rare opportunity fell City’s way when Cameron hoisted a long ball into the box and after Walters and then Adam had got their heads to it, Crouch attempted a volley from just outside the box, but at full stretch, he couldn’t trouble Vorm.


The Potters weren’t helping themselves by giving the ball away in their own half on too many occasions and that forced them into some desperate defending, while there was a let off when Michu hooked wide from Routledge’s cross.


However, when Whitehead got forward on the overlap to deliver a cross in the direction of Crouch, it led to their best chance of the first half hour.


Etherington played a neat one-two with Adam to find himself in an excellent position, but he chose to fire his shot at the near post rather than the far one and it flashed into the sidenetting with Crouch and Walters in the middle.


At the other end, a mistake by Etherington when in possession almost proved costly as Rangel seized upon it and provide a cross from Michu seemed certain to score with a close range header, but he glanced it wide of the upright.


The half finished with City having a chance to catch Swansea on the counter attack as Etherington burst forward down the right with plenty of support, but he chose to shoot tamely at Vorm rather than find either Nzonzi or Adam.


Having been somewhat relieved to get to the break on level terms, the Potters then went behind immediately after the break.


It was perhaps not surprising that the goal came from a wide position where Swansea had enjoyed so much success in the first half.


But it was full back Davies who made the breakthrough as he broke onto a pass from de Guzman and fired a low shot across Begovic and in at the far post


Swansea immediately had an opportunity to stretch their lead when the ball broke to Michu in the box, but although his close range shot was on target, Whitehead read the danger well and got in an important block to prevent a second goal.


But it was only brief respite as the home gained a two-goal cushion in their next attack as Adam upended Shechter 20 yards out and from the free kick de Guzman curled his shot over the wall and beyond the reach of the diving Begovic.


Nevertheless, City could have pulled a goal back moments later when Whitehead hooked a cross into the middle where Walters just inside the six yard was only inches from getting his head to it with only Vorm to beat.


Pulis then decided to make his first two changes of the afternoon by introducing Jones and Jerome in place of Crouch and Adam.


Jerome had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes when a chance fell his way, but he hooked his effort well wide and the assistant referee’s flag spared his blushes.


It was Swansea who got the third goal of the game, however, with ten minutes remaining with an excellent move which cut open the City defence.


A fantastic first touch from substitute Graham, after he had been found by Rangel’s ball forward, laid a pass into the path of de Guzman bursting down the right and the Swansea midfielder kept his nerve to slot the ball past a helpless Begovic.


With five minutes remaining, Pulis made his final change when Owen was introduced in place of Etherington, but City were chasing nothing more than a consolation effort.


It was the England striker who got it as the game went into injury time as he got the decisive touch to a cross that was whipped into the middle by Jerome.

 






















 

 

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