Match Review: Hull City 0-2 Stoke
Stoke got revenge on their EFL Cup exit opponents Hull City away from home as they cruised their way to a consecutive 2-0 win in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon. Xherdan Shaqiri was at the double with two outstanding efforts to outweigh Hull’s feeble attempts to take the game to Stoke. After an incredibly poor start to the season, Stoke are now unbeaten in four games and have climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time since they entered it.
With Mark Hughes having seemingly found the formula for success, he decided to name the same starting eleven for the third game running. Phil Bardsley was a doubt running into the game having come off against Sunderland with half an hour to go, which would have caused a rather big selection problem with Glen Johnson also being unavailable. Fortunately the Scot was fit to return and enabled Stoke to progress into the game with the continuity from the last. All could change in a couple of weeks though with the news that Jack Butland is now training on grass for the first time since his re-injury.
In terms of efforts on goal, the opening stages of the game was quiet, the only item of controversy stemmed from a block by Ryan Shawcross, which appeared to hit the Stoke skipper on the arm. Hull’s claims for a penalty were waved away from the referee, correctly so with Shawcross’ arm tucked tightly into his body. The feeling was that it would have taken a moment of magic to break the deadlock and that’s what happened midway through the first half. A cleared Stoke corner fell to Shawcross on the edge of the area, he hooked the ball over to Shaqiri on the right wing. The Swiss international cut in onto his left foot and was given all the time in the world by the Hull defence, so he set himself up to take a shot around 30 yards from goal, it soared wonderfully into the very top corner of the near post which gave goalkeeper Marshall no chance at all. The theory that Shaqiri only scores beautiful goals continues, but this will be right up there with even his best efforts.
The game came to life following the goal and it was the away side looking to extend their lead. Minutes later, Shaqiri launches a spectacular ball over the top of the Hull defence for an onrushing Marko Arnautovic whose first touch was excellent, his shot was saved by the goalkeeper but it rebound clipped Michael Dawson, sending the ball back towards goal and perilously close to dipping underneath the crossbar and in for an own goal. Shaqiri set up another chance for his teammates, this time it was a much shorter and incisive pass for Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian was through on goal and had the goal at his mercy, however his delay on pulling the trigger allowed Dawson to pull of a brave sliding challenge to keep his team in the game.
The first half ended and the second half begun with the wind remaining in Stoke’s sails. Shaqiri won a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge on the area and it looked to be between him and Arnautovic as to who would be given the chance at goal. It was Xherdan who took the shot, which looped over the wall and tucked neatly once again into the near post and past Marshall, Shaqiri and his team doubled their tally for the afternoon. On closer inspection, Shawcross was making a nuisance of himself in the Hull wall and the ball went through the gap which the Stoke captain left as the free kick was taken. A well practised routine, giving Shaqiri his second direct free kick goal of the season.
Stoke continued the pressure from there on in and, despite no significant breakthrough for a while after the goal, they were comfortable and well deserving of their lead. The only chance for the hosts followed a rare misplaced pass from Joe Allen, a quick break allowed Abel Hernandez to capitalise from a counter attack and take a shot from distance, but his drab shot rolled comfortably into Lee Grant’s arms. At the other end, Bony had himself another effort on goal, but the effort fizzled wide and wasn’t enough to earn himself his first Stoke City goal. Joe Allen also had a chance to continue his hot streak of goals, his shot towards the far post produced a good save from Marshall when it looked like the Welshman would have his sixth goal in five games for club and country. The best chance of the half fell to Arnautovic, a similar cross field pass from the spellbinding Shaqiri to the one he produced in the first half sent the Austrian clean through once again; Arnie took his chances aiming for the far post this time, but Marshall denied him yet again with the best save of the match. But nevertheless, the final whistle blew and Stoke had their first win away from home and took their points tally up to eight in the last four matches. Following the final whistle however, a naughty tackle from Sam Clucas caught Shaqiri unnecessarily after the game, it sparked a reaction from Shaqiri and his teammates Allen and Bardsley. All four involved were shown yellow cards for their trouble, although it’s debatable that some could have been served a more severe punishment.
Stoke look a million miles away from the team that was conceding four goals week in week out and were inept in creating chances of their own. Admittedly, Stoke are coming up against seemingly easier opposition and this showed with Hull’s lack of class today; despite this, Stoke have been known to fall to bad results against this kind of opposition, so it’s positive that the team are producing performances deserving of the results that follow. The more reserved, defensive formation seems to be continuing and having an unchanged team seems to be definitely beneficial, especially for the back five, who are gelling together more by the minute. But the clear standout performance from this fixture was that of Xherdan Shaqiri: he’s proving to be the player that Stoke expected when he became their record signing just over 12 months ago, a run of games injury free means that the ‘Power Cube’ has time to find his feet and finally adjust to the power of the Premier League. Long may this continue, with the same going for the steady rise and return of Stoke City back to where they belong.
I can’t imagine losing 4-0 to a team now, can you?
Lee Grant: 6 – nothing to do again, clean sheet
Phil Bardsley: 7 – performed well considering he was a doubt
Ryan Shawcross: 8 – had a hand in both goals and kept a clean sheet
Bruno Martins Indi: 8 – his alliance with his new teammates is becoming ever so fruitful
Erik Pieters: 7 – starting to rediscover his form that he showed early last season
Glenn Whelan: 6 – forming a solid partnership with his American teammate
Geoff Cameron: 8 – he’s certainly found his place in the team now, wonderful again
Xherdan Shaqiri: 10 – two screamers and created chance after chance, perfect
Joe Allen: 6 – quieter game than usual, but who can blame him for that lately?
Marko Arnautovic: 7 – caused trouble and had a few chances, not quite finding the net yet
Wilfried Bony: 6 – part of a winning team, but has to be scoring soon if he wants to stay
Written by Ben Rowley
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