Match Review: Everton 1-0 Stoke
Stoke will be cursing their luck today as they fell to a 1-0 loss against Everton at Goodison Park this afternoon. Once again, Stoke were punished for for being seen as too aggressive in the penalty area and conceded a spot kick of the second game in a row, once that was neatly tucked home by Shay Given’s head. There were encouraging signals from today that Stoke might take a point with some good defending, but the luck didn’t side with the away team today and it leaves them rock bottom of the Premier League table after three games.
Jack Butland, Glen Johnson and Xherdan Shaqiri all weren’t fit enough to play the game on Merseyside and will have to wait until after the international break to play football again for Stoke. As expected: hat trick hero Peter Crouch made his second start in a row, in all competitions, for Stoke; forcing Mame Diouf out on the right wing and dropping Bojan to the bench. Geoff Cameron, who also kept a clean sheet on Tuesday against Shrewsbury, filled the vacancy left by Philipp Wollscheid. Reports suggest that the German defender was in his home country to be treated for an ear problem but, with rumours linking him with a return to the Bundesliga, it’s suspiciously suggesting that he’s preparing himself for a move away from the club before deadline day next week. There was still no place on the bench for Joselu as youngster Julien Ngoy managed to impress the manager enough to be within contention for some Premier League game time instead.
Everton certainly had the best of the exchanges and, if it wasn’t for some fantastic last ditch defending, could have taken an early lead. Kevin Mirallas had a curling shot from 20 yards that had to be saved by Shay Given. Romelu Lukaku managed to steer his way around Given in the penalty area and took a shot on a seemingly open goal, but Ryan Shawcross was there to clear magnificently off the line. Ashley Williams was also denied a league debut goal by another wonderful clearance off the line by Crouch. Stoke had very few chances in the first half, with Arnautovic having a shot from 30 yards which sailed gracefully over the crossbar and Imbula looking to trouble the Everton goal from distance but producing the same amount of danger as his teammate. Mirallas also attempted a bicycle kick from the edge of the area at the end of the half but it didn’t trouble the Stoke goal.
Going into the dressing room at halftime, Everton certainly will have thought that they deserved to be in the lead. Stoke produced a solid defensive shift although not creating much at the other end of the field, it was certainly something that Hughes would have conveyed to the players during the break. Stoke needed a cutting edge to break down Everton, they only really had themselves to blame for some loose passing and questionable decision making.
The second half began with Everton looking to take an early advantage once again, both Ross Barkley and Lukaku saw shot dragged wide of the target with decent opportunities opening up for the both of them. It was however six minutes into the second half that Stoke conceded a penalty. Phil Bardsley and Ashley Williams tangled in the penalty area following a set piece and the referee was of the opinion that the Everton defender was shoved off balance by his opposing counterpart. Leighton Baines stepped up to take the penalty against Given and smacked the post with his curling drive, however the rebounding ball hit the diving goalkeeper on the back of the head and the ball squirmed frustratingly over the goal line and miserably gave Everton the lead that they, up to this point, deserved.
It was the goal that signalled a tactical switch from both teams. Everton looked to sit back and protect their one goal lead, something that would have been questioned under the reign of their previous manager Roberto Martinez. The Potters, meanwhile, responded to the deficit by adding pressure onto the Everton backline. It didn’t take long before Stoke threatened to put the game back on level terms: Arnautovic collected the ball on the left wing and weaved his way into the penalty area, he sent a rasping shot on goal but it was blocked by Phil Jagielka and bounced agonisingly onto the top of the crossbar. Hughes also attempted to disturb Everton’s plans by bringing on Jon Walters for Peter Crouch, who was far away from replicating his midweek magic.
It was the Irishman who had the next opportunity for Stoke, and it was a massive one. Arnautovic once again collected the ball on the left side and cut into the centre of the field; but rather than cross this time he opted to look for his teammate. The resulting cross dragged agonisingly ahead of Walters who couldn’t react in time to get a toe on the ball and the danger passed. In the dying stages Stoke continued to add pressure on the Everton defence, with the added assistance of Bojan and Ramadan, but couldn’t carve a definitive chance to draw level and the game ended 1-0 to the home team.
On the balance of play, Everton did enough to win the game and walked away rightful winners. Despite this though Stoke will be devastated in the way that they were defeated today, to an own goal from their goalkeeper’s head from a questionable penalty decision. The defence performed admirably for the majority of the game and had a couple of chances to regain the lead once the penalty was converted. Stoke do have problems when in the final third though and do not create enough chances to say that they can dominate games and haven’t done for months. The international break comes next and Deadline Day falls in the midst of that. Incomings of a striker and central defender seem likely with players of our own in those positions possibly heading out of the club. With these new signings, along with the return of some important players from injury, Stoke could once again be a force and all recent fortunes could change.
We’re currently bottom of the league, it’s only up from here.
Given: 6 – can’t blame him for the own goal. Some good saves
Bardsley: 6 – dealt with Bolasie reasonably well
Shawcross: 7 – much improved under the eye of Sam Allardyce at Goodison
Cameron: 6 – being more mobile than Wollscheid certainly helped today
Pieters: 6 – defensively okay, offensively poor
Whelan: 6 – seemed to carry out his duties better today
Imbula: 5 – decent flashes but often caught struggling to make decisions
Allen: 7 – once again all over the pitch
Diouf: 5 – poor touches and limited opportunities
Crouch: 5 – didn’t have enough impact on the match to be dangerous
Arnautovic: 6 – good attacking threat but frustrated often
Walters (25 mins): 6 – improved Stoke when he came on, should have scored
Ramadan (10 mins): not enough time for impact
Bojan (10 mins): not enough time for impact
Written by Ben Rowley
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