Match Review: HSV 1-0 Stoke City

Stoke suffer slim defeat in final pre-season workout

Stoke City lost their final pre-season friendly in Germany on Saturday afternoon as they were beaten by Hamburg SV 1-0. Despite controlling the game in the first half, it was a completely different story in the second and HSV’s Michael Gregoritsch sealed victory for the home side. However, there was plenty of encouraging factors looking ahead to the new Premier League season but also confirmed a couple of areas which require improvement.

In the pre-season matches prior to this one, Hughes had been keen to test his unorthodox 3-4-3 formation; although today saw the return of the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. With both Glen Johnson and Phil Bardsley omitted from the squad that travelled to Germany, Geoff Cameron found himself playing right back. Joe Allen is still awaiting his starting debut as Glenn Whelan and Giannelli Imbula started in the middle of midfield. Due to Marko Arnautovic’s minor injury scare, Ramadan Sobhi made his debut for the club; having not been able to travel to America to take part in the games there. Mame Diouf, who had scored four goals in his previous four Stoke City games, retained his place up top.

Stoke started the game strongly with a couple of good opportunities to take the lead. Very early on, Diouf’s run in behind the back four of Hamburg was rewarded with a chance clean on the home team’s goal; unfortunately for Stoke, Diouf’s shot was straight at goalkeeper Rene Adler and Hamburg were let off. Imbula then took matters into his own hands when he sent in a thunderous shot, which took a deflection, but Adler was there again and produced a fine diving save to prevent the goal. Stoke’s continued pressure resulted in a corner shortly afterwards. Bojan took the corner which swerved viciously towards the goal but Adler, although being impeded by Diouf, was there again to save confidently.

There was a chance at the other end as Stoke found themselves being attacked down their right hand side and a cross was sent into the Potters’ penalty area. The cross met a Hamburg head and the shot was heading for the top corner far post, but Jack Butland produced an extraordinary save to brush the ball past the post and preserve his defence’s clean sheet. HSV managed to forge another goal threat through Aaron Hunt, who took a volley from outside the box, Butland was once again there to clean up any mess however. In the final stages of the half, Xherdan Shaqiri dazzled three Hamburg defenders and somehow managed to draw a foul. Sadly, not only did the resulting set piece result to nothing, Shaqiri picked up a knock from the foul and limped his way into the tunnel as the half time whistle blew, with the rest of the Stoke players wondering how they hadn’t managed to score.

Hughes decided not to risk Shaqiri further and substituted him for Joselu, with Mame Diouf moving out to the right hand side. Perhaps Shaqiri’s influence was sorely missed as HSV turned the game around and attacked Stoke as the Potters did in the first half. Butland was called upon twice in quick succession as a volley from the edge of the area and another clear cut chance had to be dealt with in order to keep the game level. Jack couldn’t keep the goals at bay any longer as a ball from a corner found the feet of Gregoritsch, whose pea-roller of a shot managed to elude the entire of the Stoke defence and even clip an unsuspecting Butland on the way through to the first goal of the game. Even though Stoke had dominated the opening 45 minutes, their poor finishing came back to haunt them as the German side’s pressure was rewarded. After that scare, the game settled slightly and both teams struggles to carve a clear chance, with Hamburg continuing to be the most inventive second half side and looking to increase their lead. However, the clearest of those chances was produced by Bojan, who managed to find a Stoke body that was six yards out from the Hamburg goal; unfortunately that player was Ryan Shawcross and the resulting shot squirmed harmlessly away from the goal. In this time, Stoke had made several substitutions, which saw Sobhi’s debut end for Joe Allen’s to begin in an attempt to sure up the midfield, and of course to give the new signing some game time before the new season.

This move didn’t see Stoke become any more positive and Hamburg continued to press. Former Barcelona wonderkid Alen Halilovic found his way into the penalty area and caressed a beautifully curling shot past Butland, but only for it to crash into the inside of the post and get cleared away to safety. HSV did manage to find the net again through substitute Lasogga, but he was found offside due to standing ahead of the defensive line as his teammate took a shot before he slotted in the resulting rebound. The game then slowed into a struggle for fitness for both teams and frustrations grew: Joe Allen got taken out by an opposing player, who was then confronted aggressively by Diouf. Having already been booked, Diouf may have been lucky to stay on the pitch in a competitive match. The last hurrah for Stoke was that young superstar Julien Ngoy made an appearance for the first team right at the end having been substituted on but had no time to make an impact on the game and it finished 1-0 to HSV.

Stoke were much more dangerous and free flowing with the 4-2-3-1 formation and with two influential wingers on the field in the first half, which suggests that this is the setup that Hughes will use for the opening day of the season against Middlesbrough. However, once Shaqiri departed the field, Stoke deteriorated and the system became less effective, offensively and defensively. Although Diouf was in a good vein of goalscoring form before the game and provided good runs in behind the defence all game; it became clear throughout the match that Stoke could do with a clinical finisher who can offer a more all round performance up top and take the pressure off the midfield trident. Defensively, no defender has performed admirably throughout but it’s good to see that Shawcross appears to be over his back problems, at leats for now. Next up is the real deal, the main event, the one we’ve all been waiting for! The Premier League is back in action next weekend and hopefully it’s the start of something super for Stoke.

It’s been a long Summer, let’s hope it’s been worth the wait.

Written by Ben Rowley

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