Stoke ease three past Maccabi
Cameron Jerome was sent off as Stoke City strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Britannia Stadium to consolidate their position at the top of UEFA Europa League Group E.
It seemed little could go wrong for the Potters after first-half headers from Kenwyne Jones and Jerome and a finish from Ryan Shotton had put them firmly in the driving seat.
They were then reduced to ten men, though, when Jerome collected a second yellow card in the 43rd minute, having been adjudged to elbowed Yoav Ziv, but the Maccabi player was later shown red in a bizarre incident early in the second half and the hosts had little trouble seeing out the victory from there.
Stoke now have seven points from three games at the midway point of the group stage and look well on course to make the knockout rounds.
Potters manager Tony Pulis made seven changes to his starting line-up, with Matthew Etherington, Marc Wilson, Matthew Upson and captain Ryan Shawcross the only survivors from Saturday's Premier League victory over Fulham.
Jones, who was making his first appearance since picking up a hamstring injury a month ago, Jerome and Robert Huth were among those coming into the team, while Peter Crouch and Jon Walters were named as substitutes.
After the Israeli visitors had made an assured start, Stoke almost took the lead in the 11th minute when Jerome headed Shotton's long throw against the bar and saw Maccabi goalkeeper Guy Haimov push away his follow-up.
Within seconds of firing that warning, the Potters found the breakthrough, Jones rising unmarked in the box to crash home Dean Whitehead's corner. Wilson then sent a chip into Haimov's arms and Jerome glanced Huth's cross wide.
The hosts made it 2-0 from another set-piece, Etherington curling in a free-kick from the right in the 24th minute and Jerome nodding the ball in.
Maccabi attempted to muster a response and Upson got across to block a shot from Moussa Konate, but Stoke were soon back on the attack and extended their advantage just after the half-hour mark. Jerome found himself through one-on-one with Haimov and took the ball around the goalkeeper before squaring to Shotton, who neatly converted.
The Potters' momentum showed little sign of letting up, with Jones bouncing another header into Haimov's body and Jerome lifting an effort over the bar from Shotton's cross.
Jerome sent off
The first half ended on a sour note for the home side, though, as Jerome - who had earlier been booked for dissent - was shown a second yellow card when Greek he was ruled to have caught Ziv with his arm. And so it was to the great delight of the home crowd when Ziv was dismissed himself ten minutes after the restart.
Frustrated that no free-kick had been awarded when he was tackled by Shotton near the touchline, Ziv kicked out and managed to fire his boot - which had come loose in the challenge - flying into the assistant referee. His immediate apologies were to no avail and he received a straight red card.
Once the commotion had subsided, Jones almost netted his second of the evening with a header from Shotton's cross that went inches wide. At the other end, Konate sent a shot off-target before Pulis threw on Walters and Wilson Palacios for Huth and Etherington. Soon after, Palacios fed Jones, who drew a good save out of Haimov.
Another Potters substitute, Andy Wilkinson, fired an attempt wide in stoppage time but Stoke's work was done.