Stoke City end Premier League losing streak with victory over Swansea

Possession may be nine-tenths of the law but in football it is what you do with it that counts, and in that respect this was a routine victory for Stoke City. Two goals headed home direct from set-pieces by Matthew Upson and Peter Crouch meant that while Swansea looked the more accomplished team, they suffered the fate of so many at the Britannia Stadium.

For all that it appeared straightforward it was also an important win for the Potters and for their manager Tony Pulis. The Welshman named an entirely different XI to that which started in midweek against Valencia, a selection which drew a certain amount of criticism from the 4,000 Stoke fans who travelled to Spain. But ending a run of four league defeats meant he could argue it was more than justified.

"We went there to have a go, and the team that went to Valencia actually did smashing, but it's very important for us to get the points we need to survive on the board as soon as we can," said Pulis. "The chairman was really pleased with the team I picked for both games, and he's the one I answer to. We understand the supporters will be happy with some things and not others, and you just have to roll with that."

The supporters certainly left contenton Sunday, having seen Upson lose his marker Angel Rangel and head Matthew Hetherington's corner powerfully past Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Trammel, before Crouch rose above three defenders to meet Ryan Shotton's long throw. Trammel, a late replacement for the ill Michel Vorm, should have saved but allowed the ball to squirm over the line.

Swansea were as patient and neat as ever in their attempts to get back into the game, but Stoke pressed them high up the pitch, and it was the 80th minute before the Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was required to make a save of any kind.

The Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers expressed his disappointment on two counts. Firstly, and most obviously relevant to the result, was his team's defending of the two set-pieces; but he was also aggrieved by an incident in the 82nd minute when Dean Whitehead clearly tugged the shirt of the Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson in the Stoke penalty area.

When the Swansea players appealed for a penalty, Rodgers said they were told by the referee Howard Webb it had not been given because Sigurdsson had not "gone down". "It was a clear pull, we try to respect the rules of the game and be honest, and we got penalised because Gylfi was honest," said Rodgers. "We want to win games by fair means, and it's disappointing that if Gylfi falls over, like a lot of players do, he'd probably have got the penalty, but because he stayed on his feet he didn't."

Having seen his team suffer back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, Rodgers will be happy enough to be taking them to another passing side in Wigan next Saturday. Stoke are out of the Europa Cup, but they still have an FA Cup quarter-final at Liverpool to look forward to, in between seeking the two more wins which would surely guarantee Premier League survival.

comments powered by Disqus