If Stoke City were going to make it through to the FA Cup Final, most people would have guessed that they defeated Bolton Wanderers on penalties, or at least on a set piece. Stoke are not necessarily the negative, ball hoofing team they were when they first joined the Premier League, but they're still a defense first side, and against an attack-oriented Bolton Wanderers side, most would have guessed that Stoke would commit the majority of their team to keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. Oh, how wrong we were.
Bolton were downright terrible on Sunday afternoon at Wembley, succumbing to am embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the hands of a team who are a often the inspiration for jokes about negative football. The combination of Bolton's ineptness and Stoke's attacking ability were seriously out of character for both teams, and the match was the kind we'll all remember when we're old and grey. When I'm 90 years old, it's likely I'll be siting in a retirement home asking people "Do you remember that game?" The guy next to me will say "Isn't the FA Cup what the cyborgs play?" and I'll pretend I didn't hear him as I sip my apple juice.
Wingers Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant were unbelievable in this game, as were the central defenders Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. The strikers, Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters never stopped working, while Stoke's central midfielders did just what they always do, and held their positions well. Everything went exactly according to plan for Tony Pulis, and after a magnificent five goal performance, his team are through to the final.
A team whose leading scorer is a central defender scored five goals to get into a cup final. Seriously.