Michael Kightly scores to get Stoke City career off to a flyer at Greuther Furth
MICHAEL Kightly required just 134 seconds to announce himself as a Stoke City player in Germany last night.
Kightly scored with his very first touch on debut to light up the start of last night's final pre-season friendly here in Bavaria.
And the 26-year-old winger's all-round performance against Bundesliga newcomers Greuther Furth certainly did nothing to hinder his hopes of making his senior debut at Reading in next Saturday's Premier League opener.
His ability to run the line with good energy – in both directions – will endear him to his manager, while his evident eye for a pass and a shot in dangerous areas will endear him to both Tony Pulis and supporters.
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All that was really missing from such a promising start was the sight of Kightly in full flow on the outside of his full-back and crossing into threatening areas. All in good time, hopefully.
American international Geoff Cameron was also blooded last night during a midfield debut in which he was prepared to get stuck in, show decent mobility, pick a pass and also run with the ball.
Some might say that one particular pass, with the outside of his foot to release Jon Walters down the right channel early second half, was the kind of through ball last seen at Stoke when Graham Kavanagh was strutting his stuff for the Potters more than a decade ago.
Central midfield certainly seems to be his first resting place – despite demonstrating his versatility by switching to central defence on the hour – and you wouldn't bet against him starting in the engine room at Reading.
There was also the bonus of Jermaine Pennant's return from injury to bridge the gap left by Matthew Etherington's absence because of a back injury.
Kightly's early heroics were the product of a build-up to which he will soon become familiar soon enough as Peter Crouch flicked on a long ball upfield.
Kightly was driven wide, too wide it seemed, as he chased the ball well left of the Greuther goal.
But the keeper made up Kightly's mind by darting rashly from his goal – and immediately regretted his decision when the Stoke winger slid a first-time effort through his defences from a distinctly unfavourable angle.
Kightly was duly mobbed by his admiring new colleagues, while his manager, not one to go over the top on such occasions, appeared to be momentarily tipping his baseball cap before remembering himself.
Stoke's new boy might even have followed up that blistering start by teeing up a second for Pennant, but his chipped through ball was mis-directed just as his wing partner was licking his lips at the prospect of a rare strike on goal.
Crouch was generally enjoying himself in the air whenever the ball was punted long, but Stoke's first-half goal threat was restricted thereafter to a Walters raid on goal.
The Irish international controlled the ball well on the run to set up a first shot with his right foot that was blocked, but was then cursing himself with the mis-hit follow-up with his weaker left.
Asmir Begovic had his manager shaking his head, and not for the first time in pre-season, with a poor kick typical of much of his recent work with the ball at his feet.
His shot-stopping remained top class, however, to confirm his apparent number one billing when it all kicks off for real in seven days.
An early dive to his right to gather a teasing little grub hunter was merely a warm up for the acrobatic tip over to deny Tobias Mikkelson's ferocious drive from distance.
But his best save came just before the break when forced to change direction and save low to his left after Sercan Sararer had broken down the left before cutting in-field to open up the angle.
Begovic could produce no such heroics to thwart Greuther's equaliser though.
A right-wing corner had left Gerald Asamoah favourite to head goalwards, until an evident shove in the back from Matthew Upson.
Begovic shifted to his left as Bernd Nehrig's penalty powered down the middle to make it 1-1 – and send the Greuther drummer into Cosy Powell territory.
Ryan Shotton – one of three subs after the break and one of Stoke's liveliest performers of late – almost nosed the visitors back in front when gathering Kightly's square ball and drilling low across the home keeper to shudder the base of the far post.
It would take a bigger scare than that to silence the constant thud of the Gruether's barmy army in a crowd of around 4,000, their vibrations rocking the various temporary structures taking shape around Greuther's expanding stadium ahead of their Bundesliga opener at home to Bayern Munich in a fortnight.
The home crowd's mood changed briefly from celebration to anger when Ryan Shawcross reminded everyone of his uncompromising presence by upending Christopher Nothe to halt his progress goalwards.
Sub Sebastian Tyrala would have punished the Stoke skipper's challenge from the resulting 20 yard free-kick had Thomas Sorensen not flung himself high to his left to claw the ball clear with a save to rank alongside Begovic's best in the first period.
It wasn't just the 100 or so Stokies dotted around the Trolli Arena who applauded the save as well as the shot.
It was a welcome goalmouth skirmish, to be honest, during a fourth quarter lacking any such excitement as the game meandered towards an even outcome.
The only hint of a late change to the 1-1 scoreline in Stoke's favour came when Cameron almost capped his impressive night with a flicked header from a Jamie Ness free-kick, but the home keeper prevented the American from following Kightly into the debut-scoring record books.
The only hint of a late Greuther victory arrived a couple of minutes from the end of normal time when sub Ilir Azemi skidded a shot wide of goal with only a stranded Sorensen to beat.
SpVgg Greuther Furth: Grun, Mavraj, Nehrig, Furstner, Nothe, Asamoah (Fall, 63), Prib, Baba (Tyrala, 63), Kleine, Sararer (Pekturk, 81), Mikkelsen (Azemi, 83).
Stoke City: Begovic (Sorensen, 46), Wilkinson (Jerome, 60), Wilson, Shawcross, Upson (Palacios, 60), Pennant (Shotton, 50), Cameron, Whelan (Whitehead, 46), Kightly (Delap, 76), Walters (Ness, 65), Crouch (Jones, 65).
Referee: W Stark.