Stoke slipped back into their old habit of conceding four as they threw away the lead against an, in the end, dominant Liverpool side. Jon Walters did open the scoring very early on, but it gave Liverpool plenty of time to recover and they did so thanks to goals from Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, an own goal from Giannelli Imbula and Daniel Sturridge. It was a match that was riddled with individual mistakes and lapses in concentration, however you couldn’t help feeling that Stoke’s efforts were lacking in the second half. It leaves Stoke 13th in the table and sends the Reds second.
Mark Hughes decided to leave out some of his biggest names from the Starting XI following the agonising draw to Leicester ten days prior. Despite scoring a penalty in his last game, Bojan was dropped to the bench in place of Peter Crouch in the only change. However, sitting next to the Spaniard were the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Wilfried Bony, Ramadan Sobhi and Ibrahim Afellay. It was the latter’s first appearance in the Stoke squad since his huge training ground injury almost a year ago. Marko Arnautovic sat his second of a three match ban.
Stoke suffered yet another defeat to the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon to the tune of a 3-1 loss. Charlie Adam’s penalty did give Stoke the lead midway through the first half, however Theo Walcott’s equaliser came swiftly afterwards and second half strikes from Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi doomed Stoke to yet another pointless trip to North London. Stoke had periods, especially during the first half, where they were displaying their best chance of nicking something from the Gunners in their own back yard for the first time in the Premier League, but Arsenal’s quality in abundance ended up to be too much for the Potters.
Mark Hughes was forced into a singular change from the side that beat Burnley the previous weekend: Jon Walters picked up a thigh strain in training, so there was a reshuffle to the attacking trident with Joe Allen filling in with Xherdan Shaqiri behind Marko Arnautovic who led the line. The space on the bench was filled by youngster Julien Ngoy, reclaiming his seat from the Watford victory after missing out last match. Once again, the bench contained no recognised defensive options, with the likes of Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross and Phil Bardsley still unavailable.
Stoke will hold their place in the top half of the Premier League table once again this weekend after the 2-0 triumph over Burnley on Saturday afternoon at the bet365 Stadium. It could be argued that Stoke played their best football of the season during the first half of this match, in which both Jon Walters and Marc Muniesa both hit spectacular volleys to allow Stoke to kill the game in the second half. Despite the match statistics suggesting the game was an even contest, it was the home side who had by far the better chances and made the win look comfortable against a Burnley side which only benefited from brief spells of dominance.
Glenn Whelan and Joe Allen were both available for selection after their respective injury and ban, giving Mark Hughes a massive selection dilemma heading into a game off the back of a solid away win against Watford. Hughes opted, rather surprisingly to most, to name an unchanged side and leave both of his returning midfield warriors on the bench. They were included on the bench, meaning youngsters Julien Ngoy and Thibaud Verlinden missed out on the 18 man squad after being included last week.
Burnley started the game by forcing Stoke to play a high tempo game, they were pressing from the front and forced the Potters in a couple of mistakes early on and carved a couple of half chances, one of which forcing an intelligent clawed save from Lee Grant. The majority of their chances were rules out for offside though, being caught three times in the first five minutes. Once Stoke settled into the game, they were the ones creating the scoring opportunities and no one came closer than Bruno Martins Indi: an excellent corner from Xherdan Shaqiri found the head of the Dutchman but his bullet header crashed into the foot of the near post, denying him his first well deserved Stoke City goal. Giannelli Imbula picked up the rebound of that strike, but his bending effort whipped past the post and away to safety for Burnley.
It wasn’t much later that Stoke found the breakthrough: a wonderful one touch move involving a one-two with Mame Diouf and Shaqiri and a great cross from the Senegal international into Jon Walters who took the cross on the volley and chipped Paul Robinson with a delicate effort that nestled into the far post and to give Stoke the lead. You could feel the relief around the stadium when the ball found the net after concerns that Walters was trying to find a teammate at the far post, however, on closer inspection his body language suggests that the chip was intentional. Fifteen minutes later, Stoke doubled their lead courtesy of Marc Muniesa: the Spanish centre half jinked past three onrushing Burnley players and a quick counter attacking move ended with Arnautovic cutting back to Muniesa, who had continued his run from the back, and the sweet left footed volley that followed flew past Robinson for 2-0. After over three years at Stoke, Marc Muniesa had his first Premier League goal and his face echoed his obvious delight; but the magnificent way he took the move from start to finish would suggest to the untrained eye he’s a seasoned centre-forward. Half time followed shortly afterwards and put an end to some of the best football that Mark Hughes’ Stoke have played all season, epitomised by an imposing string of passes sprinkled with flair and ole’s from the crowd.
The second half was a much duller affair as Stoke were obviously looking to see out their two goal lead for the remainder of the game. This allowed Burnley a little more time on the ball and create a few more chances. Most notable of which was a shot from Ben Mee, who had a shot from outside the box and stung the hands of Lee Grant, but he was able to comfortably tip over the bar. In the midst of all the chances, Scott Arfield appeared to elbow Martins Indi in the face, leaving the Stoke defender in a heap on the ground; analysis after the game suggests that Bruno could be out of a couple of game with a fractured cheekbone, perhaps the Burnley man should have seen a red card for his actions. Stoke had a chance of their own: Joe Allen, who come on as a substitute, was found completely open by Arnautovic in the box. The Welshman took his shot first time and had the entire goal to aim at, sadly he found the body of Robinson and the chance to seal the game for good went begging. The game’s final chance fell to Burnley’s Gray, he had a shot from just inside the box and it was going on target, until Grant was there once again to deny Burnley with a terrific save.
Stoke have now only lost one game in their last nine and have completed their recovery from rock bottom of the table to securing top half status heading out of a matchday weekend. It was a period which Stoke fans identified as one of opportunity and reclaim the many points that were lost in the opening winless run. At full time yesterday, Stoke were one point away from West Brom in sixth place and have only conceded five goals in the last eight games; quite unbelievable when Stoke were conceding four goals a game three months ago. Now comes an incredibly tough Christmas period, with away fixtures such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all coming up in December. Some may see now that Stoke have tallied a fair number of points in the last few games, they can afford to suffer in the next few matches with little consequences. But Stoke are playing some of the best football, particularly defensively, in the Mark Hughes era and it should be seen as a prime opportunity to claim some major victories against some established clubs and really send out a statement to the rest of the league that Stoke are fighting for European football. For now, it’s worth reflecting on a period in which Potters fans expect their team to come unstuck against these less established sides and recognising that their team has now found a way of scoring thrilling goals, defending tirelessly and, most crucially, winning football matches under and circumstances.
May the momentum roll on, I could get used to this.
Lee Grant: 7 – not exactly busy, but excellent when required.
Glen Johnson: 6 – wasted at centre back, but kept a clean sheet.
Bruno Martins Indi: 8 – my man of the match, once again fantastic at the back.
Marc Muniesa: 8 – great, aggressive defending and a well deserved goal to boot.
Mame Diouf: 7 – tireless work ethic and added some silky play too.
Charlie Adam: 5 – one of those games for him, but did perform in flashes.
Giannelli Imbula: 7 – another confident display and constantly getting the ball forward.
Erik Pieters: 7 – might have found his place as a wing back.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 7 – won’t grab headlines but showed his quality once more.
Jon Walters: 7 – wonderfully taken goal and played some neat stuff.
Marko Arnautovic: 7 – set up a LOT of chances but overdue a goal.
Joe Allen (30 mins): 6 – helped to settle the game down, missed a sitter.
Peter Crouch (20 mins): 6 – hold up play good again, probably just doing his job.
Glenn Whelan (5 mins) – not enough time for impact.
Written by Ben Rowley
Stoke City returned to winning ways at Vicarage Road on Sunday lunchtime as they fought their way to a solid 1-0 victory against Watford. It turned out to be a comfortable victory in the end for the Potters thanks to a Heurelho Gomes own goal, despite almost half the starting XI missing the previous game against Bournemouth. The game itself was a stop-start affair thanks to the 38 fouls that were committed in the match, with an inevitable sending off Watford’s Miguel Britos.
Stoke had a number of enforced changes to make in this match: both Phil Bardsley and Ryan Shawcross were victims of injury and Joe Allen was suspended after he was awarded his fifth yellow card of the season last time out. In came Glen Johnson – his first start for Stoke since getting injured prior to his England call-up – Marc Muniesa and Giannelli Imbula – both suffering from a lack of game time in recent weeks. As well as these changes, Hughes decided to experiment further with the exclusion of Wilfried Bony – with only two goals all season – and Bojan – after a disappointing display in the last game – and the inclusion of Jonathan Walters and Mame Diouf. Hughes also admitted post-match that he had switched up his formation to the 3-5-2 that featured heavily throughout pre season; however post match analysis suggests that play didn’t deviate too far from the more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.
Stoke’s unbeaten run in the Premier League finally came to the end with the 1-0 loss to Bournemouth at the bet365 Stadium. Nathan Ake’s header midway through the first half was somehow the only goal of the game, with the home side having countless chances to equalise. No more so than Bojan’s penalty, which he won at the start of the second half; however he couldn’t convert it and it was a sign of things to come for the Potters.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic came back into the side following injury and suspension retrospectively, displacing Jon Walters and Ramadan who both made the bench. Glenn Whelan was injured playing for Ireland during the international break, so Bojan earned a starting place following his goal at the London Stadium last time out. Glen Johnson made the bench, the first time he made the squad since being injured following his England call-up. Giannelli Imbula also made the bench after his exile in recent weeks.
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.
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 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.
I can’t believe it, we won a game of Premier League football.
Stoke City managed to comfortably win and gain their first three points of the season on Saturday afternoon and they cruised to a 2-0 victory against a poor Sunderland side at the bet365 Stadium. It was Joe Allen’s brace that sealed the deal, a header from an Arnautovic cross after 8 minutes and a smashing left foot hit just before half time. It was far from a perfect performance, but there was a huge improvement once again and Stoke made Sunderland look very ordinary indeed.
Stoke were granted with the news that Allen would be a doubt going into this game, however the current Mr Stoke City was passed fit to start in a largely unchanged lineup. The only change came in the form of Phil Bardsley, replacing Glen Johnson due to picking up an injury just before his England call-up which will keep him out for around a month.
Stoke claimed their first point at Old Trafford since 1980 on Sunday lunchtime as they drew 1-1 with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. Lee Grant looked as thought he was going to earn Stoke their first clean sheet in 17 games with his outstanding performance, but Anthony Martial broke the deadlock and Stoke hearts with what looked like a winning goal. However, Joe Allen found himself inches away from the Manchester United goal with the ball at his feet and shocked the Theatre of Dreams with just less than 10 minutes to go. Stoke continued on their upward trend in form and looked good for their point, defending well and having good moments in attack.
Mark Hughes opted to stick with exactly the same starting XI that earned a point against West Brom last weekend. The surprises came in the form of the personnel that were on the bench or missed out of the squad completely. Record signing Giannelli Imbula and impressive youngster Ramadan Sobhi both didn’t make the 18 man squad that travelled to Manchester, meanwhile Bojan remained on the bench.
The game was almost over minutes after kick off. Ibrahimovic broke away from the Stoke defence and collected the ball with the goal at his mercy, however Lee Grant got down superbly to produce an incredible save. It was a definite sign of things to come for the new deputy and it was this save that perhaps inspired him for the rest of the match. Down the other end of the field, Marko Arnautovic, on his 100th Premier League appearance, crossed in towards Wilfried Bony who was so close to pulling the trigger in a good position. Geoff Cameron picked up the loose ball that followed and, after a neat turn or two, fired a good shot from distance at David de Gea. It was encouraging to see Stoke having chances of their own, despite clearly being instructed to absorb pressure from United.
An almost mirrored chance happened again for Stoke: Joe Allen was released by Xherdan Shaqiri and crossed into Bony, once again missing his kick. Cameron then collected the follow up on the penalty spot in front of a gaping United goal, but fired straight at de Gea once again, except this time he will be much more disappointed with the outcome considering the position he found himself in. Stoke could have been left rueing that good chance as Paul Pogba had one of his own down the other end: he ended up missing the target completely from a wonderful position and it really should have broken the deadlock. Alas, the game remained 0-0.
Stoke were under immense pressure following this chance for Pogba and Lee Grant was forced into more splendid saves to preserve his clean sheet. One of these chances involved tipping over a chip from Juan Mata from the edge of the penalty area, he also threw himself of a Jesse Lingard shot from a couple of yards out. Ryan Shawcross was also called into duty, powerfully blocking Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort from an acute angle. After this phase of dominance from the home side: Stoke went down the other end and Xherdan Shaqiri produced a moment of sheer magic to round off the half: after fending off Chris Smalling’s pressure, he turned to face him and executed a magnificent flip-flap, posting the ball through the England international’s legs. It was a reminder that the quality Stoke possess, as well as their defensive resilience in what was a very entertaining affair for a goalless half of football.
The second half kicked off and Stoke had a free kick early on. Shaqiri sent in a delicious ball into Bruno Martins Indi, his resulting header was tipped over the bar by de Gea, even though the goal would have been ruled out for offside should the Spaniard not have dealt with the effort. It was Stoke’s time to turn the screw on United and produced an elongated spell of pressure, but it was a United counter-attack that was the clearest of chances for either team in this period. Stoke found themselves outnumbered in their own half after a long ball upfield, Lee Grant saw fit to rush out of his area and clear the ball to safety before United could capitalise. United could, and should, have had a man sent off: Ander Herrera stabbed a viscous boot in Allen’s midriff with his studs showing, but a yellow card was deemed enough punishment by the referee despite it clearly being a more serious offence.
Minutes later, Stoke combined well in the opposing penalty area and Allen collected the ball ten yards away from the goal; he opted to go for placement over power but sadly it wasn’t enough to beat de Gea. After that scare of the red devils, they went off looking for a goal of their own, the majority of their chances coming from long shots which Grant dealt with comfortably, but his clean sheet was about to be muddied. Substitute Wayne Rooney found his teammate and fellow sub Anthony Martial on the left wing, the latter rasped a curling effort around the helpless Grant and into the back of the net. Stoke were undeservedly trailing with 20 minutes to go. It could have been two very quickly if it wasn’t for Stoke’s wonderful ‘keeper, he once again saved low from an Ibrahimovic shot similar to the one at the start of the game. Stoke found themselves holding on.
To make matters worse, Arnautovic went down holding his knee after a rough challenge. He was substituted off along with the lacklustre Bony, being replaced by Jon Walters and Peter Crouch. Social media has a meltdown, thinking that the two subs would signal the end for Stoke’s hopes for an equaliser. Quite the opposite happened. Glen Johnson took a low shot from 20 yards which de Gea could only parry, Walters picked up the loose ball and crossed into an unmarked Crouch. His run was too early from the cross, which hit the crossbar, and he ended up behind the goal line before the ball dropped; luckily, that cross dropped at Joe Allen’s feet and he merely had to tap the ball into an empty net from a yard away. The mental ensued, the celebrations were wild, Stoke were ten minutes away from claiming points off Manchester United for the first time in a very, very long time. United, deflated from the goal, looked to restore their lead in the dying embers of the game. Ibrahimovic was denied brilliantly again by Lee Grant, meanwhile the crossbar denied Paul Pogba’s header from breaking Stoke hearts. The game finished, the job was done, the mood was glorious.
Stoke put in the kind of performances that saw them defy the Manchester clubs at home last season, but it was something about today, given the circumstances recently and the record at Old Trafford, that made today more special. Lee Grant will be a hero in training tomorrow and Joe Allen scores another Stoke City goal. Stoke now have three point and are back off the bottom of the table. But this game means more than that, after the international break next week the fixtures looks favourable for Stoke and the Potters could be well on the way of getting their season back on track with performances like that. It was the game that Mark Hughes would have dreamed of last night, knowing that anything less would have seen his position at Stoke very precarious indeed.
Keep the faith. We could well on the way to something here.
Lee Grant: 9 – almost unbeatable, a clean sheet away from a perfect 10.
Glen Johnson: 7 – part of a fantastic back four under the circumstances.
Ryan Shawcross: 7 – got one back on Zlatan since his England debut. Well in.
Bruno Martins Indi: 6 – no mistakes today similar to last week’s against WBA. Settling in well.
Erik Pieters: 6 – cannot fault his defensive discipline today.
Glenn Whelan: 6 – did his job well, something I haven’t said a lot this season
Geoff Cameron: 7 – very mobile in midfield and annoyed United all day.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 7 – created chances and deserves the score for his magnificent piece of skill.
Joe Allen: 9 – already begun earning his place as Player of the Season. Splendid.
Marko Arnautovic: 7 – his usual brilliant self on his 100th PL appearance.
Wilfried Bony: 5 – only downside of a good Stoke team. Contributed very little.
Jon Walters (15 mins): 6 – got the assist for the goal, however fortunate.
Peter Crouch (15 mins): 6 – encouraged Stoke to use his attacking threat. Becoming very effective in the latter stages of games.
Phil Bardsley (<1 min) – no time for impact.
Written by Ben Rowley