Stoke crushes Bolton 5-0 to reach 1st FA Cup final
Stoke will play Manchester City in the first FA Cup final of the team's 148-year history after trouncing Bolton 5-0 on Sunday.
After imploding in the opening 30 minutes Bolton conceded three times, with Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones all punishing shoddy defending to score for the world's second-oldest professional football club.
Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was beaten for the fourth time inside his left post in the 68th minute when Jon Walters blasted into the net from 25 meters (yards).
Walters, a former Bolton striker, completed the rout with his second goal when the back-four was ripped apart again in the 81st.
''We scored some great goals today,'' Etherington said. ''We get our knockers, people say certain things about us. Today was our day to prove them wrong.0
''We are used to being the underdogs. The manager said that before the game and we will be the underdogs in the final as well. Bring it on.''
Stoke advanced with the biggest victory in an FA Cup semifinal since Wolverhampton also beat Grimsby 5-0 in 1939.
''We were the architects of our own downfall if you look at all the goals,'' Bolton manager Owen Coyle said. ''I thought there were too many who didn't give a performance to match their ability and that's the galling thing ... when you underperform it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.''
After losing all three previous FA Cup semifinals, Stoke will return here on May 14 to face Manchester City, which also profited from poor defending Saturday to beat Man. United 1-0 in the other semifinal.
Both finalists are chasing their first major title since winning the League Cup in the 1970s, with Stoke triumphing in 1972 and City emerging victorious four years later.
But for Stoke manager Tony Pulis, the prestige of the FA Cup is not what it once was.
''If you look at international football, the Premier League and the Champions League - fourth in line is the FA Cup,'' Pulis said.
But if Man City qualifies for the Champions League by staying in the Premier League's top four, Stoke would earn a spot in the Europa League regardless of the outcome of the final.
Stoke's luck in the FA Cup finally turned with a gift from Paul Robinson after 11 minutes.
A misplaced pass from the left back found its way through to Etherington, who had the space to dispatch the ball into the bottom right of the net.
Jaaskelainen was beaten in the same spot six minutes later when Gary Cahill's attempted clearance went straight to the unmarked Huth, who unleashed a first-time dipping volley past the 35-year-old goalkeeper.
Failing to rally from the double setback, Bolton's capitulation continued with the third goal coming on the half-hour.
Jermaine Pennant gained possession from Martin Petrov inside his own half and rampaged forward before squeezing the ball through Cahill's legs to pick out Jones, who had advanced into the penalty area unchecked and slotted home.
A header from Jones - Stoke's record 8 million pound (then $12.5 million) signing in August - lacked the power to beat Jaaskelainen.
But the fourth goal did come eight minutes later when Walters burst forward facing little resistance and sent the fierce strike into the net.
Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen didn't have a serious save to make until the 72nd when he denied Matthew Taylor.
But Bolton's misery was compounded when Jones galloped down the right and whipped in a cross that came off Andy Wilkinson before reaching Walters to score his second goal.
While Stoke has the final to look forward to, the focus is now on staying in the Premier League. The team is five points above the relegation zone with six games to go.
''When we lost our first game at the start of the season, one bookmaker paid out on us to get relegated,'' Pulis said. ''Staying in the Premier League is vital for us. It has given us a little bit more resource to get the Matthew Etherington's and Kenwyne Jones', who we know will improve the team.''