Match Review: Stevenage 0-4 Stoke
A full strength Stoke City blew away Stevenage on Tuesday evening as they won 4-0 at the Lamex Stadium. Peter Crouch managed to bag himself a hat trick, meanwhile Phil Bardsley scored what will be one of the goals of the season to round off an absolute domination from the Potters and sees them into the next round of the EFL Cup.
The consensus on social media was that this game was the perfect opportunity to showcase some of our youth products. However this was not to be the case as the management staff confirmed before the game that there would be minimal changes made from the team that lost 4-1 to Man City the previous weekend. Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa came in for Philipp Wollscheid and Erik Pieters in defence, Charlie Adam was introduced into the midfield in place of Giannelli Imbula and both Jon Walters and Peter Crouch played ahead of Bojan and Mame Diouf. No returns from injuries either, as Jack Butland, Glen Johnson and Xherdan Shaqiri all remained back at base rather than making the journey down south.
Stoke began the game confidently and with intent: they created good chances to score within minutes of kick off courtesy of a Charlie Adam long-ranger and a Joe Allen volley. The first goal of the came from a Joe Allen cross with both Walters and Crouch attempting to meet the ball into the box, it was Crouch who got the final touch after a rebound off the crossbar and the ball ended up in the back of the net. The first goal didn’t stop Stoke either and it was Crouch again with another good opportunity; the beanpole had another ball whipped into him and had a free header but the resulting effort squirmed just past the far post.
Stoke’s dominance was rewarded with a second goal moments later courtesy of an unlikely source. Bardsley found himself in an advanced position with all the time in the world to line up a shot and unleash an absolute thunder-cracker of a strike into the top corner. It’ll be one of the goals of Stoke City’s season and almost certainly will claim goal of the round so far. With the Scotsman helping bring a baby boy into the world not long ago, it’ll be a goal he’ll remember for more reasons than one. Stoke continued to dominate until the half time whistle blew and it looked as though Stoke would be sailing through to the next round.
Crouch got his goal minutes after the restart: Marko Arnautovic swung in a delicious ball towards the target man who doubled his goal tally with a simple, uncontested header and all but confirmed the result of the match. A chance for Stoke to turn the game into a rout fell to Walters, who was slipped through on the home side’s goal by an Arnautovic chip, but his shot couldn’t be taken in time and it was deflected over the bar by a recovering Stevenage defence. The 60th minute mark also saw Ramadan come on for Arnautovic as Mark Hughes deemed the gamer to be settled enough to give the young Egyptian a fair chance in some competitive football.
Sobhi had barely made his introduction before Crouch managed to seal his hat-trick and begin to turn on the Stoke City swagger: Joe Allen’s whipped cross from the right found Crouch at the back post and, rather than simply nod a third header home, opted to (somehow) acrobatically sweep a sumptuous scissor kick past the opposing goalkeeper and in the back of the net. A third goal for the former England striker would surely be resonating in the back of Hughes’ mind as he makes plans for the next game against Everton, which he must surely be already have been thinking about at this point, even with fifteen minutes left to spare in the match. The final stages of the game comprised mainly of some impressive footwork from Ramadan, however his apparent reluctance to take a shot on goal made Stoke’s pursuit for a fifth all that more difficult, often choosing to set up a teammate instead. The full time whistle blew without any danger towards the Stoke backline as Stoke emphatically qualified for the next round in a competition that clearly means a lot to the club.
Despite the weaker opposition compared to recent games, Stoke’s creativity was much improved tonight. The Potters looked a constant threat and some of the lesser spotted players will have worked their way into the plans for the upcoming Premier League games. As much the attack was busy, the defence was quiet. Stevenage didn’t manage to forge many chances at all and some good organisation at the back paired with good work rate in midfield was more than enough to earn Stoke their first clean sheet of the season. If nothing else, it will grant the team with refound confidence going into the Everton game on Saturday as opposed to what could have been a sticky situation should Stoke have tripped themselves up on their pursuit for silverware. In terms of the cup: Stoke fans will be hoping for a home draw considering the amount of away fixtures that have been thrown at them in recent years. For now though, let’s just reflect on just the third hat trick to have been scored by a Stoke City player since promotion to the Premier League and a Phil Bardsley banger that will worm its way into one of of the more iconic goals scored in, hopefully, another cup run courtesy of Stoke City
Is it our year? Too early to say. Just enjoy this one.
Given: 6 – nothing to do, fair play.
Bardsley: 8 – solid defensive work plus wonder goal!
Shawcross: 7 – played well before being substituted.
Cameron: 7 – good performance on his return to the team.
Muniesa: 7 – enough to give Pieters competition for the left back spot.
Whelan: 7 – organised well and kept game ticking.
Allen: 9 – another fantastic display at both ends of the field.
Adam: 7 – asked questions of the Stevenage defence often.
Walters: 7 – another solid performer having been out injured.
Arnautovic: 7 – continued quality from a great player.
Crouch 10: hat trick, can’t ask much more of him.
Sobhi (30 mins): 8 – extremely positive and good feet, needs to become more selfish.
Pieters: (15 mins): 6 – helped see the game out well when replacing Ryan.
Bojan (2 mins): 6 – not enough time to have an impact on the game.
Unused: Bachmann, Imbula, Diouf, Joselu
Written by Ben Rowley
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