Potters snatch victory as Toffees fume at ref Mason

STOKE gained some welcome relief from their Europa League hangovers with a hard-fought win over Everton at Goodison Park.

Tony Pulis’s side recorded victory after a European outing for only the second time this season. Defender Robert Huth’s first goal of the campaign proved enough as Everton missed the chance to pick up a third successive Barclays Premier League win for the first time in 22 months.

They were not without chances, however, and had two very strong penalty appeals waved away.

Ultimately, with teenager Apostolos Vellios making only his second start for the club up front, in place of the absent Louis Saha, they did not pose enough of a threat in the opposition penalty area despite dominating the second half.

Stoke, who due to their European commitments had already played nine matches more than their hosts, improved on their woeful away record this season — ending a run of four successive defeats on the road.

There was a low-key start to the game after tributes were paid to former Toffees captain and Wales manager Gary Speed, who died last weekend.

Speed’s father Roger joined a number of his son’s former team-mates invited on to the pitch to join in a minute’s applause before kick-off.

Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate, a former team-mate at Newcastle, shared an embrace with Speed Snr before taking up an unfamiliar right-back position.

There was little in the early exchanges with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov bundling a shot so wide it failed to go out after a flick on by Vellios.

The Russian’s next intervention, however, led to the opening goal.

His weak header from Matt Etherington’s 15th-minute corner dropped to Dean Whitehead on the edge of the penalty area and he drilled in a shot which Huth turned past Tim Howard from close range.

Prior to kick-off, they had taken just four points and scored just three goals in six matches.

But it was no surprise the winner should come from a corner, as nine of their 14 league goals this season have been from set-pieces.

Bilyaletdinov, having been kept out of the side for most of the campaign, seemed to be involved everywhere with one hanging cross being clawed out under his own bar by keeper Thomas Sorensen.

Marouane Fellaini was convinced he should have had a penalty on the stroke of half time when he nodded Bilyaletdinov’s corner wide. The Belgium claimed he was being held by Shawcross and television replays suggested he was right.

Everton had another penalty shout in the 67th minute when Tim Cahill nipped in front of Sorensen. The two collided, with the Denmark goalkeeper seemingly failing to connect with the ball, but referee Mason awarded only a corner. Sorensen, injured in the clash, left the field on a stretcher to be replaced by Asmir Begovic. The closest Everton came to threatening was in the 86th minute but even then John Heitinga failed to get his head on Baines’ cross from six yards out and Stoke held out.

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