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1 September 2012

Latics held to draw despite confident performance

Maloney 5 (pen)
Di Santo 49

Walters 40 (pen)
Crouch 76

Latics took the lead just four minutes into each half as Shaun Maloney converted a penalty in the first half and Franco di Santo put Latics ahead in the second but, Stoke pulled Latics back twice with a penalty of their own and a header from Peter Crouch.

It was a straight out of the blocks start for Roberto Martinez’s men as they powered forward with emphasis on wing play.

Franco di Santo was his usual tenacious self and Shaun Maloney composed as ever so it is quite appropriate that they linked up to win the penalty.

It was a handball by Stoke defender Robert Huth as Di Santo cut a pass back in the box to Maloney and the Scotsman’s shot was clearly blocked by the hand of Huth.

Penalty winner turned penalty scorer with a coolly taken spot-kick into the bottom corner of the goal giving Asmir Begovic no chance.

On 23 minutes, Latics should have made it 2-0 when Jean Beausejour broke down the left and played in Di Santo down the wing.

The Argentinian’s cross reached Emmerson Boyce at the back post but he didn’t connect properly on his volley.

With the ball up in the air to be claimed, Arouna Kone fought with the Stoke defence but his effort wasn’t strong enough inside the six-yard box and Begovic gathered comfortably.

Just minutes later Latics were forced into their first change as Beausejour was taken off as a precaution when he was clutching his hamstring and he was replaced by David Jones.

On 40 minutes and arguably against the run of play, Stoke were awarded a penalty as Peter Crouch’s heavy touch bounced up onto the arm of Maynor Figueroa.

Jonathan Walters stepped up to calmly convert and draw the game level, a similar penalty to Maloney’s earlier in the match.

Latics remained on top but had to hold their breath when a deflected Marc Wilson shot from range cannoned off the cross bar.

Martinez’s men regained their tempo almost straight away in the second half and it was a classic counter attack that put them back on top.

It was Di Santo who started the move and Di Santo who finished it off.

Deep inside his own half the striker cleared the ball down the wing to Kone who more than matched Wilson for strength on the half way line and made his journey towards goal.

As he reached the box, he checked back to beat the covering defender and played in Di Santo who had remarkably kept up with play.

The Argentinian side-footed the ball into the top corner expertly, to score his second of the season giving Begovic no chance.

Latics maintained the pressure but found it hard to break down an organised Stoke defence.

There wasn’t much cutting edge in the second half from either team despite one-sided possession for Latics.

With half chances going begging, Stoke took advantage on 76 minutes when Crouch nodded home the equaliser.

It was a standard Stoke City goal when substitute Cameron Jerome flicked on a throwing into the box and from there, Walters crossed towards the six-yard box and up rose Crouch above the defence, guiding his header into the bottom corner past Ali Al Habsi.

Latics were forced into some last ditch defending late on as Gary Caldwell was on hand to block a Crouch shot as the striker looked destined to score.

Then it was Al Habsi on hand to save the day when a free kick from Charlie Adam deflected off Caldwell and was tipped away from the bottom corner by the Omani goalkeeper.

A minute into stoppage time substitute Ryo Miyaichi almost found himself with a chance on goal but his rapid run from midfield after Ben Watson played him into the box was cut out with a well-time but last-ditch Ryan Shawcross tackle.

It was honours even at full time but there was no doubting who the team in control was.

Latics team: Al Habsi, Kone, McCarthy, Caldwell (C), Di Santo (Miyaichi 80), Maloney, McArthur (Watson 76), Boyce, Ramis, Beausejour (Jones 29), Figueroa
Unused subs: Pollitt, Crusat, Gomez, Boselli

Stoke team: Begovic, Cameron, Huth, Whelan, Wilson, Shawcross (C), Whitehead, Walters, Kightly (Jerome 75), Crouch, Wilkinson (Adam 36)
Unsued Subs: Sorenson, Pennant, Jones, Edu, Upson

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