Five-star Stoke roar into final

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Stoke roared into their first FA Cup final after producing arguably the greatest performance in their history to crush Bolton 5-0 at Wembley.

The Potters belied their reputation as a long-ball team with a thrilling display of attacking football, becoming the first team for 72 years to win a semi-final by a five-goal margin and setting up a May 14 clash with Manchester City.

Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth, Kenwyne Jones and a brace from Jonathan Walters scored past a Bolton side who simply fell to pieces trying to reach the final three months after the death of the legendary Nat Lofthouse.

Owen Coyle will have nightmares about the manner his side conceded possession close to their own penalty area for the first with 11 minutes played. Instead of simply booting the ball downfield, as surely their opponents would have done in a similar situation, they tried to pass their way out of danger. Etherington seized on a loose ball, spotted an opportunity and whistled a shot into the bottom corner.

Jussi Jaaskelainen must have experienced an awful sense of deja-vu six minutes later when he was plunging towards the same side of his goal, failing to keep out Huth's first-time half-volley.

When Martin Petrov lost possession to Jermain Pennant deep inside the Stoke half, the Bolton boss could only watch in complete disbelief as the former Liverpool man streaked forward 70 yards without a tackle being made on him before he slipped a pass through to Jones. The bulky marksman, a club record £8million signing by Pulis last summer, steadied himself before burying his shot past Jaaskelainen on the half-hour mark.

Coyle made a couple of changes at the break, with Petrov one of the men replaced, and shoved Johan Elmander into a more attacking role after being bypassed totally in midfield.

Jones spurned a couple of opportunities as Bolton laboured, then he, along with Walters and Ryan Shawcross managed to pass up a chance when it seemed easier to score.

Any fear Stoke had lost their nerve was quickly dispelled in the 68th minute as Walters rammed home from 25 yards.

And when the former Ipswich striker drilled the fifth past Jaaskelainen nine minutes from time, it merely completed Stoke's perfect day.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.


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