A very curious game. The revised formation to accommodate the absence of Tiote simply was not working and Stoke were on top before the red cards – playing some excellent football actually.
For me, this underlined just how important Tiote has been to our resurgence, and also how we have no one to adequately replace him: a real concern. Who knows what would have happened had Stoke not gone down to nine, but I have a feeling it would have been a real struggle.
As to the key decisions, I'm not really sure about the first yellow for Whelan as I'm still not entirely certain what happened. However, the 2nd yellow was correct and the other red was correct. I also thought the Ref got the handball decision against Willo correct in the lead up to our 1st goal – there was no intent whatsoever although I've seen plenty of these given.
I'm sure Mark Hughes' bleating is more related to how well they had been playing than the correctness of the Ref's decisions. Their defeat, and the manner of it, was purely down to their own indiscipline.
On the other side of the coin, I thought we should have had another penalty and Stoke another red card for Shawcross's wild and dangerous challenge on Haidara near the end – decisions that of course were never going to be taken in the circumstances.
We made hay against 9 men and it was all very enjoyable pantomime stuff, but AP was rightly more concerned about our performance before the red cards turned things firmly our way.
I thought Willo and Colo played well. Cabaye ran the game in the 2nd half during which HBA ran riot and could have had a hat trick. Sissoko was utterly lost in central midfield, and I thought Santon was awful, particularly defensively: his poor performance was further highlighted by the eventual stream of left wing crosses from Haidara, although by that stage he was admitedly playing exclusively as a left winger.
A big win, an improvement to our goal difference, but one that raised a number of concerns regarding our 1st half performance.