Match Review: Stoke 1-1 West Brom
Stoke were denied of their first win of the 2016/17 Premier League season right at the death against West Bromwich Albion as the two teams settled for a 1-1 draw at the bet365 Stadium. Joe Allen’s goal signalled the first time that the Potters had been leading a game this season, until Salomon Rondon’s header from a last minute corner crushed Stoke hearts. Mark Hughes’ Stoke are still unable to defeat a Tony Pulis team, who took his 1000th game as manager of a football club. The point gained did mean that Stoke clambered out of the bottom place in the league table but it wasn’t enough to leap out of the relegation zone for the first time since the team entered it.
Lee Grant, who replaced Shay Given in the team’s 2-1 loss against Hull City in the EFL Cup, retained his place in between the sticks. The back four remained unchanged from midweek, however Giannelli Imbula and Ramadan Sobhi, who was man of the match against Hull, lost out to the return of Glenn Whelan and Xherdan Shaqiri; the latter coming back after a long injury layoff.
The game began with neither team getting a proper foothold in the game and taking control. It was Stoke to conjure up a moment of memory: Erik Pieters was released into the penalty area by Marko Arnautovic and the Dutchman dropped to the floor, but referee Martin Atkinson controversially judged the West Brom defender to have challenged for the ball fairly. Stoke kicked back moments later, Glen Johnson found himself with the ball at his feet in the West Brom box and sent a delicate chip in towards the far post, it took a flying goal line stop from an Albion man to deny the opening goal of the afternoon.
West Brom did have their moments on the break in the first half but neither team forged a clear cut opportunity on goal, barring the Johnson attempt. It was the away side, who had clearly set up to absorb Stoke pressure, who would be happier to enter the dressing room after a goalless half. There were no changes after the break from either side despite the game crying out for some form of impact. The early stages of the first half played out in a similar way to the first, Pieters had another penalty shout waved away by Atkinson and it was Stoke who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, with West Brom looking to counter. The highlight of this period came courtesy of a looping Arnautovic cross from the right wing which found the head of Joe Allen, his attempt on goal in turn came agonisingly close to a goal but, ultimately, it rolled on the roof of the net after it has squirmed over the crossbar after a deflection.
Wilfried Bony, who enjoyed little time with the ball at his feet and had even fewer chances to create goal-scoring opportunities, was substituted midway through the second period for Peter Crouch. Stoke did play a more direct style of football with the big Englishman on the field and it worked to their advantage: the ball was being held up effectively in dangerous areas and it caused real problems for the away side’s backline. Shaqiri, who looked lively on his return back into the team, sent a cross into the box with Crouch in the area. With Marko Arnautovic poorly marked at the near post, he was able to flick the ball onto Allen who made no mistake this time when given a second bite of the cherry to give Stoke City the lead. It was glorious, the celebrations were jubilant, the passion from the players was there for all to see, the tension was quickly replaced by relief all across the stadium.
Stoke opted to try and hang onto their lead and try and negate West Brom’s increasingly hurried attempts of scoring an equaliser. Lee Grant was forced into a splendid save after an early cross West Brom met an opposition head and the shot was heading for the base of the far post, but the stopper on loan from Derby County managed to claw away the chance rather athletically, a form of defence that Stoke have been rather starved of since Jack Butland’s injury. It looked as though the Potters were on course to professionally navigate themselves to a first league win of the season, their first clean sheet for almost six months and lift a huge weight off Mark Hughes under-fire position. However, Bruno Martins Indi and Lee Grant had a minor mix up at the back which led to a corner for West Brom; the Baggies snatched their chance with Rondon powerfully connecting with the cross and lashed the ball into the far corner. It visibly damaged Stoke City: the fans fell silent, the players’ heads dropped and Mark Hughes’ realised that the ongoing pressure surrounding his position wasn’t going to be relieved.
Despite the draw against an ordinary West Brom team, Stoke quite obviously turned a corner in the game and defended well against a team who scored four league goals in their last league game and have always beaten Stoke City whilst under Tony Pulis’ management. Stoke looked much improved up top with the return of Shaqiri and was paired with an excellent performance of the freshly returned Glen Johnson. Despite this, the home side didn’t create enough clear chances to be convincing and set pieces, at both end of the field, continue to be a curse. It certainly wasn’t a performance to win over the entirety of the worried Potters faithful, but it will buy Mark Hughes a little more time with the club’s hierarchy to prove that he is still the man for the job. Stoke next play Manchester United at Old Trafford before the second international break; fans won’t be expecting to be returning back to the midlands with much reward, but imagine the lift that the club will benefit from if they do.
There’s still a long way to go, whichever way you want to look at it.
Lee Grant: 6 – not a lot to do but made a grand save to keep the game at 1-0
Glen Johnson: 7 – pivotal in attack and defence once again
Ryan Shawcross: 6 – missed a couple of chances from corners, but solid at the back
Bruno Martins Indi: 6 – Bru-no nonsense. Handled Rondon well.
Erik Pieters: 6 – his best performance of 2016, fair play to him
Glenn Whelan: 6 – more disciplined today than usual
Geoff Cameron: 6 – won and kept possession well
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6 – much missed on the right wing, but didn’t see a lot of the ball
Joe Allen: 6 – out of position but managed to grab himself a goal
Marko Arnautovic: 6 – created chances, but not quite clear cut
Wilfried Bony: 5 – decent link up play but didn’t find himself in goal scoring opportunities
Peter Crouch (30 mins): 6 – held up the play well and gave his team an incentive to attack
Charlie Adam (5 minutes) – no time for impact
Mame Diouf (2 minutes) – no time for impact
Written by Ben Rowley
Trackback from your site.