Cardiff City 0 - 2 Stoke City AET. Match Report

Last updated : 19 January 2011 By Thore Haugstad

cardiff-stoke tactics 4-4-2 pulis jon parkin

Both sides made drastic changes to their respective line-ups in the previous games with one eye clearly fixed towards the upcoming league fixtures.

Cardiff switched six players from the team that drew at Carrow Road with Andrew Keogh partnering Jon Parkin up front. Only McPhail survived in midfield while Gabor Gyepes and Darcy Blake came in for Kevin McNaughton and Paul Quinn in defence.

Tony Pulis made no less than 10 changes from Stoke's 2-0 win over Fulham. Only left back Danny Higginbotham stayed in the side but, after going off injured 10 minutes into the first half, the introduction of Michael Tonge saw Stoke field an entirely new team.

Few chances in first half

The game was even worse than the crowd's turn-up as both sets of players found it hard to combine due to the many changes. Cardiff generally looked for flicks off Parkin and placed Keogh close behind him on goals kicks and set pieces, but the January signing struggled to hold the ball up and won few challenges against Danny Collins despite his renowned size. Pulis also used Salif Diao cleverly here, as he dropped the Senegalese down on goal kicks to double up on the Bluebirds' target man.

Cardiff tried to create chances through longer attacks when they had the ball, but only the left side seemed to produce openings. Drinkwater generally looked to cut inside to find space between Stoke's midfield and defence, with Lee Naylor looking to push into space. Andrew Keogh also tended to drift towards the left to provide width, and won a couple of corners from one-on-one situations with right full-back Ryan Shotton. Naylor himself contributed with a couple of surging runs forward, but the home side rarely threatened Sørensen.

Stoke attack down the right

Although both teams were fairly poor, Stoke were even more direct than Cardiff and made no changes to their 'trademark' style of play. Even the long throws of Delap were replaced with the presence of Shotton - although he is nowhere near the thrower Delap is. Generally, the visitors looked to set Pennant up one-on-one with Naylor, but the former Liverpool winger struggled and was often forced to cut in on his weak foot to little effect. Ricardo Fuller also tended to drift to the right to drag Gabor Gyepes out of position, but the Cardiff defenders coped well.

In truth, Stoke were most dangerous when they won the second balls off scraps from challenges between Walters and Hudson. The central midfielders were quick to position themselves around their striker to pick up the lose balls, and they managed to establish a few decent attacks. However, the final touches were lacking and the game remained goalless at half time.

Defences on top

Second half continued in similar fashion, although Cardiff managed to keep the ball for longer periods. Both teams created very little however, which can be explained by the amount of changes and the lack of understanding between the players. The defensive unites remained relatively sound though, and Stoke in particular were good at breaking up play. Jones introduced Michael Chopra for Jon Parkin - who had a frustrating home debut - but the substitute offered nothing but a penalty claim in injury time which referee Peter Walton correctly waved on.

Meanwhile, the Potters' only real dangers came from set pieces - to little surprise for regular Premier League followers. The right back, Ryan Shotton, got two chances from two corners early in the second half - first heading over from five yards and then from seven yards having been left completely unmarked. In open play, the visitors generally looked to hit on the break and Cardiff were forced to concede dangerous free kicks on a couple of occasions.

Pulis' most notable change however, was directly after Jones had taken off Parkin. The Welshman realised that Cardiff had no target man to hold up the ball (not that Parkin managed to, anyway) and immediately instructed his players to close Cardiff down from the front and force them to play long - where Faye and Collins had good control. On the ball, Stoke did produce one huge chance 10 minutes before full-time, but Tom Soares' close-range shot was blocked heroically and the sides went into two unfancied period of extra time.

Walters opener

After Stoke's second half, you sensed an eventual opening goal was always going to come from a set piece and that's exactly what happened. An in-swinging corner found the head of Jonathan Walters only two minutes into extra time, and the striker- who had had an otherwise quiet game - nodded the ball home by the near post.

Cardiff had few answers, which is partially explained by David Jones making all three substitutions fairly early, denying them the necessary fresh legs needed to overrun Stoke. The Bluebirds' only chance came from Keogh who was played free in the area, only to find his shot blocked.

Potters kill game off

The second half brought few refreshments for a much-tested crowd. Cardiff seemed to lack that extra gear to put pressure on Stoke, and the Premier Leage outfit kept the ball well and fended off Cardiff's attacks with relative ease. Indeed, it was Stoke who remained on the front foot despite leading the game, and they eventually killed the game off when Walters scored from an acute angle to add his second for the night - picking up a neat through ball from Glenn Whelan.

There was no going back for Cardiff after that, and Pulis will be pleased - if not with the performance - then at least to have gone through without using his first team players. Dave Jones put very little into the tie as reflected in his player selection, and got even less back in what was a desperately poor cup tie. Both managers clearly prioritise their respective leagues and Jones will lose little sleep over this as long as the Bluebirds hit back with a win against Watford on Saturday.