Match Report: Stoke 3-1 Swansea
Stoke City are well and truly back from the dead with their third win in a row courtesy of their 3-1 victory against Swansea on a Halloween night in the bet365 Stadium. Former Swansea midfielder Joe Allen set up former Swansea striker Wilfried Bony twice for a brace and substitute Ramadan Sobhi forced an own goal from Swansea defender Alfie Mawson. Stoke were well deserving of their victory and it means that the Potters shoot up to 12th in the Premier League, leaving the likes of Swansea deep within the relegation zone.
There was one enforced change for Stoke ahead of the game: Geoff Cameron hyperextended his knee in training, so Charlie Adam stepped up to the missing midfield role alongside Glenn Whelan. Phil Bardsley was expected to miss the game, having had to deal with the passing of his grandfather last week, however he heroically turned up to play the game and save Mark Hughes a real selection headache with all other right back options unavailable. The absence of Cameron meant that there was space on the bench for Ramadan, making his first appearance in the 18 man squad since his marvellous performance in the EFL Cup fixture against Hull.
Stoke attacked Swansea early and their intense pressure immediately paid off. Charlie Adam had a rasping shot from distance which went out for a corner. The resulting ball fell to Joe Allen who rolled the ball into a dangerous area in front of the Swansea goal and Wilfried Bony rediscovered his poacher’s instinct to stab the ball into the goal with not even two minutes on the clock. It was his first Stoke City goal and it meant that two former Swansea employees had caused more misery on the Welsh side. Swansea replied just seven minutes later though: Wayne Routledge, one of the shortest players on the pitch, managed to nip in behind and score a header after a decent ball into the box. It silenced the bet365 Stadium periodically, but the home fans roared into life with encouragement for their team, knowing that there was plenty of life left in this game yet.
It was the Potters who were immediately in search of an equaliser and they had a few good chances to retake the lead. None more so promising than another long range drive from Adam following wonderful skill from Marko Arnautovic, this one had Swansea beaten but it cannoned onto the foot of the far post. And then, sadly for Stoke, Xherdan Shaqiri hobbled off with an injury, it didn’t look serious but it was enough to convince Hughes to replace him with Ramadan just before the half an hour mark. Charlie Adam then went close again: rather than opting for power, he went for placement and looped a shot toward the top corner; once again it beat Fabianski but it crashed onto the far post and away from danger. Almost immediately after, it was another Stoke players’ turn to be denied by the woodwork: this time it was Arnautovic who broke clear of the Swansea defence, rounded the goalkeeper but rolled his effort agonisingly onto the post for the third time for his team.
Stoke came back from the half time break amazed that they weren’t leading the game, with Swansea looking to use their dominance in possession and take advantage of Stoke’s lack of pressing into grabbing a goal against the run of play. But the away side couldn’t take that advantage, being restricted to long range efforts which were dealt with by an in form Lee Grant very comfortably indeed. Ramadan Sobhi’s performance early in the second half was remarkably better than that in the first and it was rewarded in due course. He was released on the left wing and befuddled the Swansea fullback, allowing him to put a deadly ball across the Swansea six yard box which ended up being stabbed into the back of the net by helpless Swansea defender, Mawson. The teenager wheeled away in sheer delight as if the goal was his own and the elation was reflected in the home support both in the stadium and those watching the game away from the stadium. Stoke’s and Egypt’s young prodigy finally announced himself in the Premier League and what a way to do so.
The game slowed after the goal as Swansea were left chasing the game once again; however Stoke were disciplined at the back and allowed Swansea little opportunity to threat another goal. The away side did have one chance with numbers in behind the Stoke defence, but Ryan Shawcross recovered excellently to deny Swansea twice in quick succession from repairing the deficit. It was then time for Stoke to assert their dominance in attacking opportunities and score their third goal of the night. Bardsley found Arnautovic with a good long pass, the Austrian sumptuously flicked the ball to Joe Allen, whose shot rebounded back to him via the goalkeeper. Rather than shoot again, he found the other ex-Swansea man once again and set Bony up for a simple poacher’s header from short range. The relief of a third goal flowed through the ground and justice had been served for the amount of pressure that Stoke had put onto the Swansea goal. Stoke were surely going to win a Premier League game once again, and comfortably too.
Allen was close to getting a goal of his own: Arnautovic sliced a ball from the right hand side right across the face of goal, the Welshman with two assist to his name already couldn’t quite reach the ball and turn the game into a rout. Arnautovic shortly brought down a Swansea man, apparently unfairly to the referee and booked Marko for his troubles, meaning he will miss the game against West Ham in London. Borja Baston gave Swansea a glimmer of hope, his cross from the left looped awkwardly over everyone and glazed the top of the Stoke crossbar. The final controversy of the game came via Erik Pieters’ challenge on Routledge, he brought the Swan down and the referee pointed for a penalty; however, having spoken to his linesman, he then changed his mind and awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Seeing as the initial contact from Erik was made outside the box, this was the correct decision.
Stoke have now tallied eleven points out of a possible 15 in the last five games and have righted their early season wrongs. The team was not only defensively solid, the attacking movement and chances on display was magnificent to watch and it shows that the Stoke hierarchy were right to keep Mark Hughes at the helm of the Potters’ ship. The regular faces stood out again, although it was great to see Wilfried Bony finally score his first goals for the club having missed any opportunity that had previously come his way. Ramadan Sobhi will also be pleased with his display and will surely start against West Ham, given Arnautovic’s ban and Shaqiri’s possible injury. All in all, Stoke are producing the results they were expected to produce in this seemingly easier run of fixtures and there’s no reason why they can’t reap more reward with similar opposition coming up. It’s time to look up again Stoke fans, and surely any relegation fears were left behind with Wilfried Bony’s goal drought.
Bony & Allen come back to haunt Swansea. THERE, I SAID IT!
Lee Grant: 7 – called into action from distance and responded well
Phil Bardsley: 7 – performed well considering the events from midweek
Ryan Shawcross: 7 – captained the team well and got stuck in himself
Bruno Martins Indi: 7 – growing with every game, looking brutal now
Erik Pieters: 7 – handled Barrow well, who had to be substituted
Glenn Whelan: 7 – stayed in his position and did his job pretty well
Charlie Adam: 7 – his so-so defensive display was outweighed by his quality attacking efforts
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6 – had to be subbed off, shame for him and the club
Joe Allen: 9 – produced two assists and carries on his great vein of form
Marko Arnautovic: 9 – my man of the match, impeccable from start to finish
Wilfried Bony: 9 – two goals for the man with a drought, came at a good time as well
Ramadan Sobhi (60 mins): 8 – persuaded Hughes to keep him around the squad more often
Jon Walters (20 mins): 6 – helped see out the game up top
Peter Crouch: (5 mins): not enough time for impact
Written by Ben Rowley
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