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Arnautovic move feels like a betrayal

Stoke City
By ESPN Staff

We never gave up - Huth

Robert Huth claimed Stoke's performance against Valencia at the Mestalla defied the critics who said Tony Pulis' team selection had effectively raised the white flag in their Europa League last-32 tie.

Huth speaks to ESPN

• Valencia 1-0 Stoke City

Although the Potters lost 1-0 to go out 2-0 on aggregate, they turned in a good performance and could consider themselves unlucky with some key refereeing decisions.

Los Che struck the crossbar after 90 seconds and took the lead through Jonas in the 24th minute, but there were several chances for Kenwyne Jones while Diego Arismendi looked to have been fouled right on the edge of the Valencia box immediately prior to the hosts' goal.

"Obviously they hit the bar in the first minute, but after that we possibly had the better chances,'' Huth told ESPN.

"Kenwyne was through a couple of times and there were good crosses coming in but it wasn't to be tonight.

"It would have been great to go 1-0 up and put them under pressure, but they scored against the run of play.

"I thought (it was a foul). (Arismendi) was trying to get through three players and it could have been a free-kick. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't.

"If you watch the game tonight, it's not Stoke to give up. We made a few changes to hopefully improve the team, but today we lost to a good team.''

Stoke were well supported by a band of 4,000 travelling fans, and Huth saluted their efforts after the match.

"They have been brilliant,'' he said. "There are more than 4,000 of them and everywhere you looked you could hear them. We thank the supporters and hopefully we will see them again soon somewhere like this.''

Manager Tony Pulis reflected on a thrilling seven-month adventure to the corners of the continent.

Pulis said of the run: "It's been fantastic, we've really enjoyed it. It's given everybody at the club a lift. It's something we've never experienced before.

"To play the number of games we have in Europe, to go all over Europe - and sometimes, in my mind, just outside Europe, and I've been caned for that - but tonight we had a right go.

"In the first 20 minutes, if we'd just have had a bit of luck, we needed a goal and it just didn't come.

"Even at our place, if Jon (Walters) had scored early on it's a different game. When you're playing the top teams the big moments obviously always happen in the box and our big moments we haven't profited from, and that's what you need to do.

"But the players have been absolutely brilliant, and even at the end Kenwyne missed a header that normally he'd score from. We needed to take our chances, we didn't do that, but the rest of the game we were absolutely fantastic.''

Pulis was criticised in some quarters for his squad selection, leaving the likes of Peter Crouch, Walters, Matthew Etherington and Ryan Shawcross behind and handing starts to Salif Diao and Diego Arismendi in midfield while Jones, Ricardo Fuller and Cameron Jerome formed a front three.

"The team I played today is the team that have played the majority of games in Europe,'' said a defiant Potters boss. "I don't know what all the fuss is about.

"But negative press sells better than positive press. We're disappointed because it's been such a positive run, such a great adventure for everyone at the football club.''

Pulis, meanwhile, also felt aggrieved Arismendi was not awarded what looked a clear free-kick when he was sandwiched on the edge of the area. Valencia broke away and Pablo Hernandez set up Jonas for the game's only goal.

The Welshman said: "I'm disappointed we didn't get a penalty or a free-kick just outside the box, that looked absolutely nailed on, and then they go and score straight away. Those incidents cost us.''

Pulis reserved his highest praise for the Stoke fans, who flocked to Valencia in their thousands and made themselves heard in the cavernous 55,000-seat Mestalla.

"They were fantastic and they will remember this,'' he said. "We estimated nearly 7,000 all around the ground and they were brilliant. I really hope in the next few years we can do it again. People in Spain, especially in Valencia, will know Stoke City.''

Valencia boss Unai Emery, whose side go forward to face PSV Eindhoven in the last 16, admitted he was shocked to discover Stoke were established nearly 150 years ago such was their low profile outside England.

The Spaniard also praised the massed ranks of visiting fans, saying: "I was very surprised at all the fans who came over and were 100% behind their team. That's something to admire.''


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