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Stoke City manager Tony Pulis was left to rue his side’s injury problems after losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the final of the FA Cup.
The Potters were beaten at Wembley thanks to a second-half goal from Yaya Toure, and Pulis admitted his side were not quite at the races against Roberto Mancini’s men.
“Losing the final of a major cup competition, it’s disappointing – but we have to bounce back,” Pulis told ESPN. “We’ve got two games left, the next one against City and then Wigan. We’ve had a great season, but it was City’s day today.”
Pulis made the bold decision to select both Matthew Etherington and Robert Huth, who were injury doubts in the build-up to the game. But despite being given the nod neither player appeared to be at their best, while Ricardo Fuller’s absence was also keenly felt.
“It was a little down on their performances but I have to say we’ve done fantastically over the last month or so, our performances have been very, very good,” Pulis said. “But, you know, Etherington, Huth and Fuller are big players for us. We don’t have the squad depth City have.
“I’m desperately disappointed, and I imagine Stoke-on-Trent will be very disappointed, but very, very proud of the boys.”
Pulis was pragmatic about suggestions that Stoke could have had a penalty, after Vincent Kompany appeared to handle the ball inside the area under pressure from Kenwyne Jones.
“I haven’t seen it but if it was, it was. [The referee] hasn’t given it so you just get on with it,” he said.
Matthew Etherington said the defeat felt worse than West Ham’s heartbreaking loss against Liverpool five years earlier.
“That time I was devastated and just as devastated now, if not more,” he said. “To lose it twice is obviously hard to take. To get there and for it not quite to happen is devastating. I hadn’t done any training all week, literally hadn’t kicked a ball. I had a grade two tear in my hamstring and I was just happy to be out there, to be honest with you. Usually, it’s four to six weeks and the medical staff here did wonders with me.
“It was intense treatment with me all day, every day, and I felt good enough. I thought I’d ease myself into it and just up until I got took off, I felt as though I was getting in the game. It wasn’t to be and obviously everyone’s devastated. We were poor first half and Man City played well. Plenty of chances. Second half, we were better but it wasn’t to be. They’ve popped up with a goal and hung on in the end.”
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen threatened to be Stoke’s hero after denying City more than once before the break. He said: “I actually thought halfway through the second half that it was going to be our day. Kenwyne [Jones] had a good chance – it was a brilliant save from Joe Hart.
“And then when I, and I think the rest of the team, thought they were running out of ideas, they scored. And then, from then on, we didn’t create any chances. We’ve definitely played better. We probably didn’t hit the form that we’ve been showing in the last month or so. I think that’s the disappointing thing.
“But this is our first chance of the big tournament, the big cup, and the players will learn a lot from this. The club has come so far in three years. It’s disappointing today but, when the season finishes, we will all be proud of what we’ve achieved.”