Begovic and crucial penalty decision deny Baggies win
ALBION’S impressive away run continued as they extended their unbeaten sequence on the road to four games with a well-earned point at City.
But it could – and probably should – have been more, with goalkeeper Asmir Begovic coming to the Potters’ rescue with three crucial saves from Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano.
And the Baggies were denied a stonewall penalty after the break when Charlie Adam tripped Youssouf Mulumbu in the box.
At the opposite end, Boaz Myhill had little to do throughout as the visitors’ defence stood firm for a third league clean sheet of the season.
But the almost 2,900 Albion fans who made the trip up the M6 were satisfied with their team’s efforts after seeing them remain undefeated at the Britannia Stadium for the fourth successive visit.
Following injury, Victor Anichebe was instantly restored to Albion’s starting XI in place of the benched Nicolas Anelka.
Meanwhile, Steve Clarke’s former Chelsea team-mate, Mark Hughes, made three changes to his Potters team.
The Baggies did the early pushing and Steven Nzonzi needed to stretch out a leg to stop Stephane Sessegnon’s mazy run in the box on seven.
A minute later, Anichebe did well down the left and picked out Sessegnon, who sent an instant 18-yard volley flying wide of the left-hand post.
The visitors should have taken the lead in the 18th minute after Anichebe brought the ball down superbly on the edge of the area and found Saido Berahino.
The England Under-21 international prodded through to Sessegnon who breezed past two challenges – but was denied the opener by Asmir Begovic’s out-stretched leg.
From the resultant Morgan Amalfitano corner, Gareth McAuley sent his near-post header wide of the far post.
At the other end, Marko Anautovic and Stephen Ireland combined to tee up Jonathan Walters and his half-volley from the edge of the area was comfortably saved by Myhill.
Sessegnon was giving the Potters defenders a torrid time and when he ran at them again on 25 he presented Amalfitano with a glorious chance. The France international attempted to lift the ball over Begovic from ten yards – a la Old Trafford – but the big Bosnian keeper managed to block his effort.
City were finding it tough to break the Baggies down but from an Anautovic corner on 37, Adam headed over under pressure from Liam Ridgewell.
Five minutes before the break, Ireland sneaked in behind the Albion defence and turned Anautovic’s free-kick goalwards. Fortunately, Claudio Yacob was switched onto the danger and pipped Walters to the ball in the six-yard box to prevent the hosts taking the lead.
Nzonzi was allowed a sight of goal from Anautovic’s pull-back in first-half stoppage time but the Frenchman scuffed his 20-yard strike well wide of the left-hand post to keep the scores level at the break.
Albion began the second period purposefully and were denied a stonewall penalty in the 57th minute. The energetic Mulumbu looked to have wriggled free of Adam in the box – but the Scotland international stood on his trailing heel to floor him. The Baggies midfielder even lost his boot in the challenge but World Cup final referee Howard Webb and his assistant gave nothing - much to the visitors’ bemusement.
Hughes made a change in the same minute as Kenwyne Jones came on for Walters.
Clarke also freshened things up in the 62nd minute as Berahino and Amalfitano made way for Anelka and James Morrison respectively.
Stoke hit the Baggies on the counter attack two minutes later as Anautovic raced down the right and drilled the ball into the box for Ireland, who blazed over from 12 yards, when he should at least have hit the target.
Adam tried an audacious effort from just inside the Albion half on 72 and Myhill had to be alert to back-pedal and finger-tip the ball over.
Two minutes later, Ryan Shawcross only half-cleared a McAuley free-kick and Sessegnon hit a fierce 25-yard volley that flew straight into Begovic’s arms.
Clarke made his final change in the 75th minute as Shane Long came on for Anichebe, with Anelka playing just off him.
The Baggies were almost undone by another Potters counter-attack on 82 – but Anautovic just could not stretch far enough to get on the end of Ireland’s right-wing delivery.
Mulumbu came close to sealing all three points four minutes from time when he curled a 20-yard shot wide of the right-hand post.
And Sessegnon almost netted a goal-of-the-season contender in stoppage time as he danced past three players – only to be denied by the giant frame of Begovic again.
STOKE (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross (c), Huth, Pieters; Nzonzi, Adam (Wilson 79); Arnautovic (Palacios 90+2), Ireland, Assaidi; Walters (K Jones 57). Subs not used: Sorensen (gk), Whelan, Crouch, Etherington.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; B Jones, McAuley, Olsson (c), Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Morrison 62), Sessegnon, Berahino (Anelka 62); Anichebe (Long 75). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Brunt, Vydra, Dawson.
BOOKINGS: STOKE – Wilkinson (foul 73).
REFEREE: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Youssouf Mulumbu.