A Peter Crouch brace was enough to secure Stoke City a 2-0 victory over Swansea City at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League.
The Swans began in the ascendancy but it was all too brief as Crouch gave the hosts the lead from a corner with a header after 12 minutes.
The visitors, in the face of almost constant pressure on the ball, struggled for much of the first half and it was no surprise when Crouch doubled his side’s advantage with 36 minutes on the clock.
A much improved second half performance bore no fruit for the visitors as they fell to their third successive league defeat without scoring.
Having followed up an impressive start to his tenure with two straight defeats, Michael Laudrup’s Premier League acclimatisation continued with a difficult trip to Stoke, who were unbeaten at the Britannia since the first week of February.
Two straight defeats without scoring is far from ideal preparation for a trip to what is widely regarded as the most inhospitable of Premier League venues but Laudrup welcomed back Chico Flores and Nathan Dyer from suspension with Leon Britton also returning to the starting eleven from the bench.
Tony Pulis, who saw his side lose their unbeaten start to the season last weekend at Chelsea, had a fully fit squad to pick from but was without Andy Wilkinson, who served the second of a three match ban.
With Leon Britton back in the centre of midfield, Swansea started with a fluency that was sorely missing in last weekend’s defeat at Everton and the team from Wales began with a familiar rhythm with Danny Graham on the shoulder of the last defender.
But while the visitors had a considerable amount of early possession, Stoke’s incessant pressure on the ball forced them deeper to open up space, but, in doing so, invited the long ball that the Potters are renowned for and left Graham an isolated figure.
Stoke’s opener came indirectly from the pressure that they had been able to apply on Swansea ball: having won the ball high up the pitch, Charlie Adam found Marc Wilson, who cut inside and drew a smart stop from Michel Vorm. From the resulting corner, an unmarked Crouch stooped to head past the Dutch keeper from close range.
Swansea, however, are a team of considerable guile and despite being out of sorts they were still able to carve out chances of note; the best of which fell to Michu but his effort from outside the box whistled past the post.
The Swans, however, were continuing to look suspect at the back and particularly so down their left with Michael Kightly having the better of Ben Davies for much of the first period. That was in no small part due to the meandering of Pablo Hernandez, who, looking to get involved in the match, continued to drift inside.
And the Stoke second came from that flank. The visitors failed to clear a cross to the back post and following a scramble Crouch followed up his own blocked effort to double his side’s advantage with 36 minutes on the clock.
Swansea, having looked reticent in the first forty five, came out for the second half with more intensity and Ki Sung-Yeung stung the palms of Asmir Begovic inside the first minute of the second period.
The introduction of Wayne Routledge on the hour offered a far more incisive threat whilst also offering cover for Davies but the visitors failed to create the clear-cut opportunities their dominance deserved.
The visitors had the better of the first twenty of the second period, but, bar a Hernandez effort from distance and a Chico Flores header that was deflected past the near post, they failed to really threaten the goal of Begovic.
The hosts, having remained stout through their visitors’ resurgence, came back into the match as it drew to a close, and threatened on the break – particularly through second half substitute Matthew Etherington.
And the former Tottenham man produced the opportunity for Crouch to secure his hat-trick but his header clipped the crossbar as Swansea faded again allowing Pulis’ side to make it a first win this Premier League campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Peter Crouch, Stoke City: The sometimes England striker was unplayable throughout and capped a fine performance with a two goals.
Stoke: Begovic 6, Cameron 6, Shawcross 6, Huth 6, Wilson 7, Walters 7, Whelan 6, N'Zonzi 6, Adam 6, Kightly 7, Crouch 8. Subs: Jones 5, Whitehead 5, Etherington 6.
Swansea: Vorm 6, Rangel 5, Williams 5, Chico 5, Davies 5, Britton 6, Ki 7, Dyer 6, Hernandez 4, Michu 5, Graham 5. Subs: Routledge 5, Moore 5.
- Peter Crouch
- Swansea City
- Premier League
- Stoke City
- Leon Britton