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  • Blackburn 0-2 Stoke City: Huth great-header

    Stoke City moved up to eighth in the Premier League following a deserved 2-0 win away against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
    Robert Huth gave the visitors the lead five minutes into the second half with a fine glancing header, and though Blackburn looked briefly like coming to life with a late rally, their hopes were killed off by substitute Marc Wilson in stoppage time.

    The win was Stoke’s third of the season away from home. Blackburn, meanwhile, drop to 13th, though Wet Ham’s victory over Fulham and Wolves’ defeat Wigan means they remain six points clear of the relegation zone.

    Blackburn had the far better festive record of the two sides, having not lost on Boxing Day since 2000, though it was Stoke who made the far better start, pressing the hosts high up the pitch and winning the early midfield battles.

    Their first real chance fell to Rory Delap, who ran onto a delightful lay-off from Jon Walters and surged into the area, before squandering the opening with a bewildering low cross that merely ran out on the far by-line.

    Five minutes later Stoke really should have been ahead, with Matthew Etherington this time passing up on glorious chance at the far post. A trademark long throw from Delap was flicked on by Shawcross, though Etherington, after stealing away from Michel Salgado, volleyed straight across the face of goal from an admittedly tight angle, though positioned only two yards from goal.

    A half-volley fired wide at full-stretch from Brett Emerton was as close as Blackburn came to scoring in a first half high of effort but devoid of any real quality, and a few boos were heard to ring round Ewood Park from fans who had clearly expected a little more in the way of entertainment from their Boxing Day football.

    Despite their superiority throughout the first half, Stoke were yet to win a corner, though they made up for it five minutes after the break, grabbing the lead from their first of the game through a Robert Huth header after Etherington’s pacy cross had perfectly picked out the German’s run to the near post.

    Morten Gamst Pedersen, whose set-piece delivery had been hitherto poor, then swung a dangerous ball right into the heart of the Stoke area that ‘keeper Asmir Begovic flapped at, and which somehow eluded a gaggle of bodies arriving in at the far post.

    If the frustrated Rovers fans thought that would signal the start of a spirited fight-back, they were wrong. While their side struggled to assert themselves in midfield, Dean Whitehead could have doubled Stoke’s lead, though directed his header straight at Paul Robinson from another fine Etherington cross.

    Blackburn manager Steve Kean threw on the pacy David Hoilett in order to bring his side back into the game, though Robinson remained the busier ‘keeper, and was again called upon to tip away a Kenwyne Jones header with 20 minutes remaining.

    He then denied the big Trinidadian in a one-on-one situation moments later as the Ewood Park crowd grew even angrier at their porous defence.

    Grant Hanley finally made Begovic work in the 83rd minute, forcing the ‘keeper to parry a header directed at the top right-hand corner, though that, together with two tame efforts from Mame Biram Diouf, was the sum total of Blackburn’s chances in the second period.

    While the clock ticked down, one long ball after another was dealt with comfortable by the Stoke defence, and the vocal away fans were able to celebrate early when substitute Wilson was afforded enough time to control Ricardo Fuller’s cross on the edge of the six-yard box and fire home past Robinson.
    Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

    Team Line-up:
    Blackburn: Robinson, Salgado, Nelsen, Givet, Olsson, Emerton, Hanley, Dunn, Pedersen, Mame Diouf, Kalinic. Substitutes: Bunn, El-Hadji Diouf, Linganzi, Doran, Mwaruwari, Hoilett, Morris.
    Stoke City: Begovic, Huth, Shawcross, Collins, Wilkinson, Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Etherington, Jones, Walters. Substitutes: Sorensen, Higginbotham, Whelan, Gudjohnsen, Fuller, Wilson, Tuncay


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