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Stoke suffer rude awakening as Bolton run riot

SoccerNews in English Premier League 16 Aug 2008

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Premier League new-boys Stoke suffered a dismal start to their first top-flight campaign in 23 years, going down 3-1 against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday.

First half goals from Gretar Steinsson, Kevin Davies and debutant Johan Elmander served as a stark warning to Potters manager Tony Pulis of the struggle his team face to stay in the topflight.

In contrast, Wanderers boss Gary Megson will be expecting a more steady season following last year's off-field turmoil and on-field flirtation with relegation.

Pulis handed debuts to Thomas Sorensen, Dave Kitson and Seyi Olofinjana while Megson gave a first start to club record signing Elmander

The foundation of the away club's promotion campaign was their high tempo physical style and they started in the same vein here.

Rory Delap's long throw-ins were proving to be a potent weapon for the Potters, causing havoc inside the home team's penalty area on numerous occasions in the opening 15 minutes.

Despite their assured start, City were given a dose of Premier League reality when Megson's men went close three times in the space of five minutes.

Sweden's Elmander demonstrated why Megson layed out 10 million pounds for him when he narrowly missed the target with a header before latching onto a Davies flick-on and hitting a powerful drive inches over the crossbar.

The former Toulouse striker should have opened his account a minute later but he somehow failed to connect with Matt Taylor's dangerous cross.

Wanderers slowly began to take control of the game and were rewarded in the 34th minute through an extraordinary strike, completely out of keeping with the fare which had been served up previously.

Iceland right-back Steinsson cut in from the wing before unleashing a speculative volley which curled and dipped on its way into the top corner of the goal.

Things got even worse for the travelling supporters when Wanderers scored twice in four minutes shortly before half-time.

Former Blackburn striker Davies grabbed the first, outmuscling the City defence to cleverly flick a swirling cross into the net.

That was followed soon after by a debut strike from Elmander, the Swede taking advantage of non-existent Stoke defending to head home Joey O'Brien's cross.

The second-half was dominated by the Trotters as they looked to build on their comfortable lead with the impressive Elmander unfortunate not to grab his second goal.

City striker Mamady Sidibe came close to claiming the Potters first Premier League strike, but was thwarted by a good save from Jussi Jaaskelainen.

That honour eventually fell to Jamaica striker Ricardo Fuller when he met Liam Dickinson's cross with a bullet header to give the visiting supporters slight consolation.

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