Stoke City: Steven Nzonzi criticism unfair, says Tony Pulis
TONY Pulis believes Stoke star Steven Nzonzi has been unfairly pilloried after he escaped a red card for violent conduct last week.
Nzonzi was only booked after pushing Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz in the face – and because the referee saw the incident he could not be further punished retrospectively.
Pulis said the offence could not be condoned, but could be explained, because Nzonzi had suffered a broken nose in an earlier incident involving Dimitar Berbatov.
"If you look at the incident (with Berbatov) he does get caught," said Pulis, pictured.
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"If your nose is broken, there's a reaction. If someone comes up to you in the street and breaks your nose, there's a reaction.
"Steven was a little bit annoyed. If you look at Steven's face, he's taken a right whack on his nose. He was in a lot of pain.
"His reaction wasn't good, but there's probably a reason why the reaction wasn't good."
Nzonzi's broken nose, which will require minor corrective surgery on Monday, saw him have a mask fitted ahead of today's clash with West Ham at the Britannia (3pm) when he will risk the teasing of his team-mates.
"It's up to Steven whether he wears it," Pulis added. "He might decide it's not for him. But if he does wear it, knowing our lot he will get hammered."
Whatever his facial attire this afternoon, the 24-year-old Frenchman will be locking horns with his old Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce as both Stoke and West Ham edge closer to the traditional 40-point safety target.
Pulis sought Allardyce's advice during a long courtship before finally landing Nzonzi after Blackburn's relegation last summer.
And the signing has paid dividends, with the midfielder being Stoke's most accurate passer this season.
"Sam was glowing in his report of Steven, having worked with him," Pulis recalled, "and I know that if he could have taken him to West Ham he would have done. That's the biggest compliment he could pay him.
"We had been looking at him at Blackburn for 18 months, from when Sam was there, but we couldn't bring it off.
"But there was a change, a weakness if you like, and hopefully we struck at the right time.
"He's technically a better player than he was. Physically, he's got all the attributes, and he does exceptionally well in the air."
STOKE'S game at Newcastle next weekend has been confirmed as a 3pm kick-off on Sunday, March 10 after the game was put back 24 hours because of Newcastle's Europa League commitments on Thursday.