The FA Cup
VIDEO: Five-star Stoke into first Final
Potters demolish Trotters in five-goal Wembley rampage.
Stoke City reached their first-ever FA Cup Final in emphatic style by smashing five past Bolton Wanderers and setting up a date with Manchester City back at Wembley Stadium on 14 May.
There was only ever likely to be one winner when Tony Pulis’s side went 3-0 up inside the first half an hour with Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones capitalising on poor Bolton defending.
The Trotters were unable to unsettle the powerful Stoke rearguard, with Thomas Sorensen having little to do throughout. And a second-half brace from Jonathan Walters sealed their impressive win in their maiden outing at the new Wembley.
It was Walters who had the first sight on goal, as well, but it was snuffed out by Jussi Jasskelainen, while Gary Cahill came close with an 18-yard drive at the other end. Johan Elmander also saw his chance from range gathered well by Sorensen, Stoke’s FA Cup keeper this season.
At that stage, their were no signs of what was to come, until Etherington showed Bolton how to strike from distance when he latched on to a loose Wanderers pass on eleven minutes. He had time to turn and wait for the ball to roll across his body to the perfect position for the shot. His first-time effort was too hot for Jaaskelainen, sending the Potters into raptures.
Just five minute later, it was 2-0 and Bolton were in serious trouble. Andy Wilkinson hoisted the ball into Wanderers box, which Cahill could only half-clear under pressure. It dropped kindly for Huth on the edge of the area and he volleyed straight towards goal, with the swerve taking it away from the Finnish keeper’s dive and into the corner of the net.
The game looked to be done and dusted just before the half hour when another Bolton mistake allowed Stoke to go further in front. Martin Petrov was robbed of possession by Jermaine Pennant inside the Trotters half and the former Liverpool and Arsenal winger made made him pay heavily.
He carried the ball towards the Bolton defence before rolling through the legs of Cahill into the path of Kenwyne Jones. The Trinidad & Tobago striker was well-poised as he stroked past Jaaskelainen.
Unlike Bolton, Stoke were not making mistakes and were forcing their opponents to work tooth and nail for any chance at goal. But one rarely came, with their desperate attempts at pulling a goal back being restricted to high balls into the area for Kevin Davies. More often than not Sorensen was on the end of them, plucking from the sky.
Owen Coyle made two changes at the break in the hope of livening up the attack. Mark Davies and Matthew Taylor came on as Petrov and Ivan Klasnic departed.
And Davies did add some thrust to the Trotters attempts to get back into the game. His first run, bursting from midfield, looked promising, but ended in disappointment. His namesake, skipper Kevin, then had a sight on goal inside the area after working an opening, but Shawcross cleared the danger.
And then on 68 minutes, it was game over. Walters was outnumbered 25 yards from goal, but with the ball he turned inside and bent a fierce right-foot drive just beyond Jaaskelainen and inside the post. The Stoke bench went wild in celebration, allowing themselves, with a four-goal lead, to believe The FA Cup Final was in their sights.
Walters then wrapped things up scoring number five with less than ten minutes left, Jones’ low cross from the right eventually ended up at the feet of the ex-Ipswich man unmarked at the far post. He took a second to set himself before clipping over Jaaskelainen and turning away to accept the appreciation from the delighted Potters support.
And it' will be no surprise if the Stoke fans head back north with smiles that'll last until 14 May, at least, with their first FA Cup Final appearance in their 148-year history now in the diary.