Match Review: West Ham United 1-1 Stoke
The two teams playing in the London Stadium yesterday gave us no reason to remember, remember the 5th of November as Stoke and West Ham played their part in a dismal 1-1 draw. The game sparked into life courtesy of a Glenn Whelan own goal, but a late Bojan goal poured cold water over any West Ham party. Despite being the away side, Stoke edged the better of the chances in the match and were well deserving at least a point, but had plenty of chances to come away with all three.
There was two changes to the side that beat Swansea on Halloween night. Marko Arnautovic picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and in turn picked up a ban for this game; Ramadan Sobhi, who also played on Monday night, came in to replace him. Xherdan Shaqiri also picked up an injury and wasn’t fit in time to play this one, having also pulled out of his international call-up as a result; so Jon Walters came into the side on the right wing.
It was Stoke who took the game to the home side early on and won the first corner of the match. West Ham managed to clear the ball but it dropped to Phil Bardsley, who struck the ball on the volley towards goal but it went embarrassingly wide over the crossbar. West Ham then had a corner of their own mintes later: Dimitri Payet found Michail Antonio on the edge of the area, but he completely missed his volley and then proceeded to bring down Erik Pieters in frustration and earned a yellow card for his troubles very early on. Down the other end, Jon Walters collected the ball on the right side and smashed a cross right across the 6 yards box, Cheikhou Kouyate produced a rather improvised clearance in order to hook the ball away to safety; it would have been a good chance for Stoke should the make-shift West Ham centre back missed the ball, as there were red and white striped bodies ready and waiting for a tap in. Wilfried Bony, following his two-goal performance last time out, intercepted a weak pass from a West Ham player and rushed to the West Ham goal. He got himself in a good position and struck the ball straight at goalkeeper Adrian, Joe Allen was there for the rebound and a good chance to take the lead but he hit the ball over the goal and out of play.
It was then West Ham’s turn to force a save out of the goalkeeper: another Payet corner found Antonio once more, this time the latter connected with his head and his shot was on target but Lee Grant dropped quickly to his left and managed to prevent the ball from going beyond him with a magnificent reaction save. Stoke then rushed down the field with the ball which ended up with Walters crossing in again, this time he found Bony and responded with a flick header but the ball sailed miserably wide once again. Phil Bardsley took another shot on the volley from distance, this time he was much further out but the ball sat up more invitingly than previously, but unfortunately it ended in the same result. Towards the end of the half, Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi went down with a knee and head injury respectively, luckily both were on their feet in a matter of minutes but, with an already stretched squad, more injury worry would have been the last thing that Stoke City needed. The final chance of the half fell to Charlie Adam, he was set loose in the penalty area with just the ‘keeper to beat, but once again his shot was straight at Adrian and the ball bounced away to safety.
The second half started with yet another Phil Bardsley long-ranger: this shot was around forty metres out and he struck this one even cleaner than last time, it was also the closest to goal but not enough to trouble West Ham in any way. It was then the Hammers’ turn to trouble the Stoke goal: Pedro Obiang hit a shot hard and low to Grant’s left, but once again the in-form shot stopper made the resulting save look like light work, despite the accurate strike arriving at pace. Grant couldn’t keep Stoke in the game for much longer as West Ham secured the opening goal. Payet combined with Antonio once again with a cross, however the latter didn’t get the crucial touch on the ball: that fell to Glenn Whelan who could only head the ball past his own ‘keeper and into his own net. It seemed harsh on Stoke who had been on top and felt like the goal went against the run of play. Shortly after the goal, Hughes decided to change up the team: Whelan made way for Bojan, who would try to link up with Peter Crouch, the man that would replace Bony. Stoke were immediately on the hunt for an equaliser and a good pass from Adam found Ramadan in space, he jinked his way past the West Ham defender and won a free kick. Adam took the resulting dead ball and swung it right into the opposing danger area, it caused mayhem with a handful of players jostling for the ball. Eventually the ball reached Adrian, who saved his team once again. However, the Spaniard was largely at fault for Stoke’s equaliser minutes later. A cracking ball from Bardsley landed ahead of Walters on the right wing; bizarrely, Adrian came rushing off his line to clear the ball, however Super Jon got there first and knocked a good ball into the penalty area. Bojan was there to send a delightful volley into the empty net and then wheeled away in delight. Bojan had been limited to a couple of cameo appearances since the change in shape and Stoke’s unbeaten run of games so he, and Stoke fans everywhere, will be delighted to have reminded Hughes of his quality. The game fizzled out at this point with the last couple of chances falling to Adam. His first was a thirty yard drive which needed Adrian’s alertness to deny Stoke taking the lead. And then finally the Scot had a free kick on the edge of the area, he looped the ball over the wall and managed to get the ball to dip low and force Adrian into a nice save to prevent last minute heartache.
The draw at the London Stadium means that Stoke are unbeaten in six straight Premier League games; a remarkable run of form considering where the team was about a month ago. The strength in depth in the squad is really beginning to show, with the likes of Shaqiri and Arnautovic being replaced today with more than suitable alternatives and players with the quality of Bojan coming off the bench and producing the goods for his team. Stoke still have plenty of injuries, hopefully this number is reduced by the time the international break is over and, when it is reduced, Stoke look to be a real force to be reckoned with once again. The Potters have struggled against seemingly easier opposition in the past, so it’s pleasing to see that Mark Hughes has found a system in which he can break these more defensive sides down and convincingly produce results. As for the manager, the cloud surrounding his future is fading very quickly and he’s assuring more and more fans each week that Stoke can challenge for top half finishes once again. May this run of form continue, at the moment there doesn’t look to be a reason as to why it would stop.
No Marko? No Xherdan? No problem.
Lee Grant: 7 – some good saves once again. Excellent goalkeeping
Phil Bardsley: 7 – involved in attacking play and kept Payet quiet
Ryan Shawcross: 6 – not busy, but held his own
Bruno Martins Indi: 6 – staking his claim for his stay to be made permanent
Erik Pieters: 7 – handled Antonio excellently, but needs to improve offensively
Glenn Whelan: 6 – half decent game, but scored an own goal
Charlie Adam: 7 – filling in for Cameron well with contrasting qualities
Jon Walters: 7 – most play came through him, got an assist too
Joe Allen: 7 – this terrible goal drought is becoming more worrying by the minute
Ramadan: 7 – defensively excellent and as creative as you’d expect
Bony: 6 – had a tough afternoon, not a lot dropped for him
Bojan (20 mins): 8 – bagged the equaliser and shown his quality in his cameo
Crouch (20 mins): 6 – caused a couple of issues but nothing of note
Diouf (10 mins) – not enough time for impact
Written by Ben Rowley
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