Stoke City: Matthew Etherington spot on to earn Stoke victory in Switzerland
MATTHEW Etherington's 38th-minute penalty ensured Stoke City made a winning start to their pre-season campaign as they beat FC Sion 1-0 in Switzerland last night.
The left-winger slotted home after former Hearts central defender Jose Goncalves handled in the area.
City were grateful to be gifted the chance in a game which was far from a pedestrian work-out as the Potters wrapped up their week-long training camp in Western Switzerland.
City's first-half line-up featured Kenwyne Jones as the deep lying striker behind Peter Crouch in a 4-4-1-1 line-up.
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Ryan Shotton started at right-back with Matthew Upson alongside Ryan Shawcross in the centre and Marc Wilson on the left.
Wilson Palacios and Dean Whitehead were paired in central midfield with Etherington on the left and Rory Delap on the right.
FC Sion were missing their former AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, but otherwise fielded enough senior players to give City a useful workout.
The game had been moved from Martigny six miles up the road to the ground of Saxon who play against a spectacular mountainous backdrop.
The ground usually hosts sixth-tier football in Switzerland so, although the playing facilities were fine, seating was limited for the 20 Stoke fans who made the trip.
A local comparison with the ground would be Norton United, but nestled into the breathtaking Alps rather than Smallthorne Bank.
Both teams struggled at first to adapt to a swirling wind, but left-back Marc Wilson soon found his range as he began checking on to his right foot and pinging the ball cross-field to right-sided midfielder Delap like Tiger Woods finding the green at Lytham.
Max Veloso tried his luck with a 20-yard strike which swerved over, but Vullnet Basha came closer on 34 minutes with a low effort from the edge of the area which was brilliantly touched around the post by Asmir Begovic.
No wonder even the Stoke keeper looked a little aggrieved when the referee gave a goal-kick.
Mathieu Manset broke into the area on the right on 37 minutes, but the angle was awkward and he could only rifle his shot into the side-netting.
But Stoke took the lead a minute later after Shotton's long-ball towards Jones. The striker chased down Goncalves who handled in the area to concede the penalty.
Etherington stepped up and hammered an unstoppable strike into the top right corner to stake his claim for penalty duties when the campaign begins in earnest at Reading on August 18.
Thomas Sorensen and Jermaine Pennant replaced Asmir Begovic and Matthew Etherington before Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, Danny Collins and Danny Higginbotham came on for Ryan Shotton, Ryan Shawcross, Matthew Upson and Marc Wilson within three minutes of the second half.
Diego Arismendi, Michael Tonge and Cameron Jerome replaced Dean Whitehead, Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch as Tony Pulis used the fixture to give all his squad match time ahead of their three-game tour to the United States next week.
Jerome came close on 65 minutes after being teed up by Pennant, but the 16-yard effort was parried by the keeper.
But Mateo Fedele's 25-yard free-kick was well held by Sorensen before Whitehead came back on for Kenwyne Jones as City switched to a 4-5-1.
Daniel Follonier broke through in the area, but was denied by a crucial late challenge from Higginbotham as Sion threatened an equaliser.
They caused a few flutters in the 90th-minute when Sorensen misjudged Gaetan Karlen's free-kick, but the ball was cleared to safety to ensure City's opening pre-season game began with a win and a clean sheet.
FC SION: Fickentscher, Debons, Bakrac (Fedele, 64), Goncalves, Nya, Veloso, Danilo, Manset (Follonier, 53), Chatton (Maksahana, 53) Lacroix, Basha (Karlen, 64).
STOKE: Begovic (Sorensen, 46), Shotton (Delap, 75), Shawcross (Huth, 48), Upson (Collins, 48) Wilson (Higginbotham, 48), Delap (Wilkinson, 48), Palacios (Tonge, 51) Whitehead (Arismendi, 51), Etherington (Pennant, 46), Jones (Whitehead, 71), Crouch (Jerome, 51).