Blackburn Rovers 4 Stoke City 1 (Half-time 2-1)
Stoke City were surprisingly dumped out of the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage yesterday, as they were forced to play the entire second-half with ten men, after Geoff Cameron had been sent off. Blackburn Rovers capitalised fully on their opponents' lack of numbers to help themselves to a resounding success, as striker Josh King completed a clinical hat-trick.
The script seemed to be working out as expected in the early stages, as the beaten finalists from 2011 took the lead through a Peter Crouch goal on ten minutes. Victor Moses' corner was not clearly properly by the home side's defence and former England international Crouch prodded home.
Blackburn gradually grew in stature as the half wore on, yet they were fortunate to not go further behind to the visitors before opening their account, when Mame Biram Diouf wasted a good opportunity mid-way through the first-half.
Spurred on by the crowd, King had a 'sighter' for things to come when he shot against the woodwork on 20 minutes. Considering that he had only scored once this campaign before the tie, the former Manchester United man may have thought that it was a reflection of his recent luck in front of goal. Unperturbed, he soldiered on and was rewarded on 36 minutes when his flicked header went in to the net, as he reacted from a corner, to draw the match level. Both sides were creating chances to add to their tally, as the action continued at a fierce pace.
The defining moment of the match occurred bang on half-time, when Stoke were reduced to ten men. King was pulled back by Cameron in the area, yielding the double penalty for City of a spot-kick against them and the red card for their defender. Frenchman Rudy Gestede coolly slotted the kick home to put his side ahead for the first time on the day.
After the break Gestede became the provider on 50 minutes, as he played a through ball for King to run on to (with a Stoke defender collapsed to the ground with a muscle injury in his wake), and with plenty of time to pick his shot he slotted home his second goal of the game. King was in his element by now and completed his hat-trick with a near identical goal five minutes later.
Rovers were rampant and could have scored five or six before the end, with Gestede and Craig Conway both going close, as City knew that their Cup dreams were over for 2015. It finished 4-1 to the home side, as current Stoke manager Mark Hughes clearly did not enjoy his return to Ewood Park, a side he had guided to a FA Cup semi-final in 2007. He branded it as "a poor performance from us."
By contrast, Blackburn boss Gary Bowyer was rightly proud of his players and enthused that it was "a terrific result for the club." They will eagerly await the last-eight draw on Monday night at Preston North End's ground, Deepdale, when England manager Roy Hodgson will assist in the proceedings, ahead of Preston's own fifth-round FA Cup tie against mighty Manchester United. #Football