Match Review: Stoke City vs. Middlesbrough
Stoke City love wingers. Whether it’s Matthew Etherington, Stanley Matthews, Liam Lawrence or even Ryan Shotton at times. That’s if Tony Pulis was feeling that extra bit defensive. But since the early years of the Premier League we haven’t really had two wingers that we can rely on every week.
Well now Stoke finally can. Marko Arnautovic and Ramadan Sobhi fit the bill wonderfully. Who’d thought I’d ever say that with a player like Shaqiri on our roster?
As Middlesbrough visited the Bet365 stadium, Stoke welcomed back Geoff Cameron and Glen Johnson. Replacing Charlie Adam and Phil Bardsley. Both changes that Stoke fans felt needed after the thrashing at White Heart Lane last week. Joe Allen and Crouchy deservedly kept their places up top along with Erik Pieters, Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins-Indi also remaining in the starting eleven.
The game started very cagey, both teams had a battering last week so it was always going to be a slow start. Stoke played the better football and had the better chances with a wonderful team move rebounding of the bar just after leaving Sobhi’s boot. Joe Allen looked back to his former self today pressing the back four whenever he could and he worked well with Crouch throughout the game. But it was the wingers who stole the show.
Whelan fired a direct through ball right which was set to land in between the goalkeeper and the on-charging Arnautovic, with two defenders hot on his tail, I might add.
Just as the ball is about to bounce, Marko brings it down with his now-trademark, casual touch, pops it through the defenders leg, takes a touch around Valdes and fires the ball in to the back of the net. 1-0.
Middlesbrough’s response was non-existent. After the goal it was all Stoke, well mostly Arnautovic really. Middlesbrough defender George Friend didn’t really stand a chance, especially after this was his first game back after injury.
The second goal was more straight forward, a simple corner headed towards goal by Crouch and flicked home by Arnautovic. Easy 2-0, game over.
After that Stoke didn’t really have to press on again, they sat back, defended well (haven’t said that in a while), and never really looked like conceding.
Just after the hour mark Marko came off the pitch, it looked as if he was just exhausted but he was clutching his thigh so we can hope it’s nothing serious.
His replacement was Diouf, who we haven’t seen since he went for the African Cup of Nations, he played down the right and put his defensive shift in helping out Glen Johnson.
We also saw Peter Crouch make way for a now bald Berahino, the new hair-do didn’t give him super-powers but he did put his shift in. Still waiting for that first start as a Stoke player.
Bruno also tweeted his groin overstretching for a lose ball, but he did finish the game so nothing serious, we would hope.
All-in-all a straight forward win. Now when Shaqiri does come back where will he play? Maybe centre attacking midfielder with Marko on the right Sobhi on the left? Better than Shotton on the wing if I do say so myself. Doesn’t that show how far we’ve come.
Stoke City 2 – 0 Middlesbrough
By Jordan Cleaver
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