Stoke hold Manchester City to draw to continue City’s Britannia curse
Stoke City 1-1 Manchester City
Roberto Mancini’s Britannia hoodoo continued yesterday, thanks in no small part, yet again, to Peter Crouch. The giant striker, recently banished from the England set-up by Roy Hodgson who seems to prefer players who have played less than two hours of Premier League football, notched his second goal in as many games against the league champions to ensure the Manchester club are yet to win in Staffordshire under Mancini’s stewardship. In fact, the last time City secured a win at the Potteries was in 1999, when Shaun Goater was spearheading their attack.
Yesterday it was the slightly less likeable Carlos Tevez patrolling the forward areas, but he could only look on as Crouch ambled his way through the centre of the City defence, almost carrying the ball as he went, before slamming it past Joe Hart.
“There was a slight suspicion of handball,” the striker admitted.
Indeed there was more than just a suspicion, as Mancini will no doubt be telling all who will listen for days to come: “If you want to talk about the goal we should talk about NBA basketball and not football.”
That controversial incident proved to be the catalyst for a frustrating afternoon for City, with Tevez, the returning Balotelli and the magnificent Yaya Touré all spurning chances for the visitors, before former Benfica man Javi Garcia levelled the scores. The £15.8 million signing was one of three debutants making his bow alongside Maicon and Scott Sinclair, and his performance will have delighted all associated with the club after he confidently restored parity ten minutes before the interval by breezing onto a Tevez centre, and nodding the ball past Begović.
From that moment the champions continued to dominate proceedings, but came up against an inspired goalkeeper and colossal captain in Asmir Begović and Ryan Shawcross. Begović made a string of fine saves, most impressively from Yaya Touré with his legs, and then from another Garcia header, as the midfielder almost succeeded in mirroring his first-half goal. This time, however, the despairing dive of Begović prevented the Spaniard as he majestically pushed the ball onto his post and smothered it at the second attempt.
Football is a game notorious in offering hope and snatching it away at the last, as Edin Džeko will know more than anybody today. With just seconds remaining, the Bosnian managed to loop the ball over the oncoming Begović, only for the tenacity of Ryan Shawcross to prevent him from notching his third goal of the season and in turn, banish the Britannia curse.
Stoke themselves have now gone ten games since their last victory in the league, but will be encouraged by yet another solid performance against one of the big boys at home. They’ll also be delighted with their first look at Bosman signing Michael Owen, who thrilled home fans with a superb two-minute cameo.
Jamie Murphy, football correspondent