Stoke smash five to set up City final
Rampant Stoke City booked their FA Cup final debut and a meeting with Manchester City on 14 May after demolishing sorry Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the biggest semi-final annihilation in 72 years.
Matthew Etherington, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones shredded the hapless Trotters with a three-goal blitz inside the opening half-hour, with former Bolton player Jon Walters adding two more in the second half to match Wolverhampton Wanderers' five-goal hammering of Grimsby Town in 1939.
It means no poignant final for Bolton in the year Nat Lofthouse passed away but that, after three previous last-four failures, the Potteries outfit will finally get to experience the world's oldest cup competition and, win or lose, will be playing in the UEFA Europa League next year providing City claim a UEFA Champions League berth.
What made matters even worse for Owen Coyle was the fact major question marks could be raised over Bolton's involvement in all three Stoke goals, which effectively wrapped up victory with an hour still to play.
Etherington told ESPN: "We scored some great goals today. We get our knockers, people say certain things about us. Today was our day to prove them wrong. 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 score three in succession
Coyle will have nightmares about the manner his side conceded possession close to their own penalty area for the first. 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.
It just made matters worse. 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 with equally little chance of preventing the net behind him bulging.
This time Gary Cahill was at fault. Generally such a calming influence at the heart of Bolton's rearguard, the England international managed to get only a half-hearted header to Andy Wilkinson's high ball. Robert Huth has scored a number of goals for Stoke but none could have been sweeter than the first-time half-volley that left Jaaskelainen completely helpless once more.
Coyle sensed the bewilderment among his players but was powerless to help, and when Martin Petrov lost possession to Jermaine Pennant deep inside the Stoke half, the Bolton manager 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 striker, a club record £8million signing by Tony Pulis last summer, steadied himself before burying his shot past Jaaskelainen. In stark contrast to Bolton's desolation, Stoke's supporters were beyond ecstatic. For those present old enough to remember the last two of those three semi-final failures, in 1970 and 1971 - the other was in 1899 - the feeling of satisfaction was great indeed.
Walters adds two more
Jones denied Etherington the opportunity to lash home a fourth and Jaaskelainen stopped a goalbound Jon Walters effort. But any more would have been greedy for Pulis' side. 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.
The move did not work as Stoke just resumed their attacking offensive. 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 as Walters rammed home from 25 yards. And when the man who battled his way back through the lower leagues after being dumped by Bolton in 2004 drilled the fifth past Jaaskelainen nine minutes from time, it merely completed Stoke's perfect day.