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Stoke City vs Valencia
 0 - 1 
Thu Feb 16 20:05:00 GMT 2012
Britannia Stadium
Peter Rasmussen

STOKE CITY'S hopes of causing a Europa League upset were stunned by a 25-yard thunderbolt from Turkish international Mehmet Topal at the Britannia Stadium.

The experienced Topal gave Valencia a first leg lead and a precious away goal with a sensational strike nine minutes before half time to leave Tony Pulis' side with a mountain to climb in the Europa League tie when they travel to the Estadio Mestalla in seven days time.

The Potters had moments to claw their way back into the Round of 32 home leg, most notably when England striker Peter Crouch's acrobatic volley flashed over the bar.


But although they pressed hard for an equaliser in the second half, it was Valencia who went closest to another goal when Sofiane Feghouli hit the foot of the post.

While City showed plenty of effort and commitment, Valencia demonstrated why they are a team with an outstanding European pedigree for periods in the game.


Pulis had set out his intention to try and cause problems for Valencia down both flanks and he recalled Pennant to a starting line-up that also included Etherington.

Four changes in all were made to the side beaten at Fulham with Huth available despite his three match suspension domestically, while Begovic and Delap returned.

With the crowd roaring on the Potters, they almost gained the perfect start as Dealbert was caught off balance as he tried to head the ball away and it broke for Walters who burst down the right before firing a shot across the diving Guaita but wide of the far post.

City endeavoured to build upon that early promise by exerting more pressure on the Valencia defence, but an Etherington free kick came to nothing.


However, when the Potters were awarded their first throw-in for Delap to launch it into the danger area, the Valencia 'keeper was caught in two minds which allowed it to carry through to the incoming Walters at the far post who tried in vain to get his head to it.

After their somewhat uneasy start, Valencia began to take control of possession and they went close to breaking the deadlock midway through the half.

More by luck than design, the Brazilian Jonas managed to weave his way into a position to unleash a close range shot which Begovic did exceptionally well to save one handed low down to his left and then Wilson produced a vital clearance with Aduriz waiting to pounce.

Valencia were looking more and more threatening as they sensed the opportunity to grab a vital away goal as Piatti had a shot blocked after showing his skill on a run into the box but Shawcross read the danger to intercept with a vital challenge.


City had appeals for a penalty waved away by the Danish referee after Crouch went down in the box under a challenge from Saltor coming in behind him as the record signing was poised to try and get his head to a cross sent over by Pennant from the right.

The warning signs had been there for the Potters for some time and as they tried to soak up more pressure from the Spanish side, the breakthrough came when Topal unleashed a blistering 25-yard drive which flew into the top corner giving Begovic no chance.

City tried to produce an immediate response, but although Crouch managed to flick on a ball played up to the edge the box, Walters was unable to capitalise on the opportunity.

Their best chance to draw level in the closing stages of the first half was carved out by Pennant with a run down the right and Crouch met his cross with an excellent volley from ten yards out but watched in anguish and it flashed over the bar.

The crowd attempted to lift the side at the beginning of the second half and there was some encouragement when Etherington ventured on a run down the left, only for the presence of Saltor backtracking to ensure it came to nothing.

Valencia caused the City defence some more anxious moments when Saltor linked up well with Feghouli whose low cross from the right was deflected behind for a corner by Huth at full stretch when it could so easily have finished up in the back of the net.

Pulis wasted no time in making his first tactical switch of the night as Whitehead was introduced in the centre of midfield in place of Palacios.

The former Sunderland man was immediately in the thick of the action as City pressed for an equaliser and when Walters released Pennant down the right hand side, his cross was only inches from the head of the Republic of Ireland striker.

Two further substitutions followed when Pulis turned to Jerome and Shotton, sending them on in place of Crouch and Wilson to inject more pace.

But with Wilkinson adjusting to the switch to left back, Valencia exploited his uncertainty as Feghouli cut in from the right and fired a left foot shot which beat the diving Begovic, but much to his relief the ball cannoned back out off the foot of the post.

There was renewed hope for the City fans when Delap's determined work forced a corner from which Pennant's delivery to the near post was flicked on by Walters and Huth met it firmly on the volley only to see it flash wide of the target.

The Potters sustained the pressure and when Etherington whipped the ball in from the left, it broke to Shotton on the edge of the box whose shot took a deflection and wrong-footed Guaita initially, before the 'keeper recovered to save low to his left.

For all their endeavour though, they couldn't find an equaliser in the closing stages as Valencia soaked up the pressure to hold onto their slender lead to make them even firmer favourites now to progress through to the next round.


Stoke City have a mountain to climb in the Europa League after going down to a Mehmet Topal goal.
 Match Information
  Stoke Valencia
Goals : 0 1
Possession : 50% 50%
Shots On Target : 1 4
Shots Off Target : 4 6
Corners : 8 4
Fouls : 12 9
Most Fouls : Delap (3) Jonas (2)
Yellow Cards : 5 2
Red Cards : 0 0
Scorers :
Topal 36
Full Match Stats
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