Stoke City: Whitehead blasts Costa challenge as Valencia take lead in Europe League tie
DEAN Whitehead claimed he was the victim of a potentially leg-breaking tackle towards the end of Stoke City's Europa League defeat to Valencia last night.
Whitehead was caught by midfielder Alberto Costa to leave him being treated for a gash on his leg in the latter stages of City's 1-0 loss in the first leg of their last-32 encounter.
Referee Peter Rasmussen did not even award a free-kick and Whitehead, who took out his shin pad to show the damage to the official, was booked for his protests.
"It was a studs-up challenge and he could have broken my leg," said midfielder Whitehead, who was a second-half substitute. "If I hadn't had my shin pads on, it would have done."
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Manager Tony Pulis waded in by saying Costa should have been red-carded for a challenge which now leaves Whitehead doubtful for Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Crawley.
Pulis, who claimed Fulham should have been reduced to 10 men on Saturday after Pavel Pogrebnyak's tackle on Wilson Palacios, said: "Two challenges from Costa are very poor and again we are on the wrong end of what could have been red cards.
"The referee is close and should have seen both incidents. The lads were upset because they were two very poor tackles. For all that's said about our lads, they are very honest."
Stoke are rank outsiders after last night's defeat, but Pulis remains defiant ahead of next Thursday's second leg in Spain.
"We go there with great hope," he insisted. "We've just got to make sure we give it our best.
"You just hope and pray that they take it for granted. We will be competitive, don't worry about that."
He thanked the crowd for backing his players so impressively, but rued the failure to close down Mehmet Topal ahead of his 36th-minute piledriver to win last night's tie.
"The fans were fantastic. When we gave them something to cheer about, they really had a go. It was a great night for everybody to remember.
"We gave it everything, but we needed to score first to give everybody a lift. Then they score a wonder goal, which is disappointing because Rory (Delap) or Wilson (Palacios) could have got out to the ball a bit quicker.
"But it's a fantastic strike and good enough to win any game. They are a Champions League side, so for us to give them the game we have is smashing.
"Asmir (Begovic) has made a couple of saves and we've had to defend for our lives at times," he acknowledged, "but this is a team that created five or six chances against Barcelona, never mind us. Jon (Walters) was fantastic, but I also thought that in the last third of the pitch we could have done better.
"Our biggest worry now is that the lads recover in time for a tough game at Crawley on Sunday."