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As the Europa League rolled into the Britannia Stadium on Thursday, a genuine atmosphere was present, similar to fevers only attained in the league matches.
Besiktas were the visitors, competent opponents for the Potters. Boasting a squad complete with the likes of ex – Chelsea winger Ricardo Quaresma, the Turks were a tough test for Pulis’ men.
Eventually Stoke ran out 2-1 winners, coming from behind after Hilbert put the away side in front after 14 minutes. Peter Crouch equalised for Stoke just a minute later, continuing his promising start to his Stoke career. And with 12 minutes remaining in the match; Jon Walters converted a penalty after Crouch was dragged down in the area.
The Turkish side were the better team in the early stages, displaying an example of their European pedigree with some excellent passing. Hilbert capitalised on a fine through ball by Quaresma and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson.
Stoke weren’t behind for long, though, as Peter Crouch levelled it up just a minute later. The 6ft 7in striker prodded in after Besiktas failed to clear from a corner.
Substitute Jonathan Walters had already hit the post when he calmly dispatched his penalty, awarded after Crouch was pulled down by Tomas Sivok in the box. Walters blasted the spot kick high into the net to seal the win for Stoke. No surprise that the goal came from a corner.
Stoke now sit atop their Europa League group, with the visit of Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv next up in the Potters’ European adventure.