Stoke City hosted West Bromwich Albion and former manager Tony Pulis on Saturday, as both clubs were desperately searching for three points. Pressure has been building heavily on Stoke manager Mark Hughes, and a 1-1 home draw will not exactly ease the intensity.
Stoke City 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
Four consecutive Premier League losses and midweek elimination from the EFL Cup at the hands of Hull City have seen Hughes one of the early favourites in the league “sack race”. The former Manchester City boss needed to see a better response from his side against West Brom.
A cautious and nervy encounter from both sides had the match stuck in the midfield for much of the first half. Stoke enjoyed the majority of possession but could not put enough into the attack going forward.
The Potters finally found the lead in the 73rd through midfielder Joe Allen and seemed to be set for a much needed victory. Allen turned in a fine performance, contributing in both the defensive and offensive halves of the pitch.
Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri was able to improve after a slow performance and truly came alive in the second half. The West Brom backline had difficulty containing his runs on the right wing and he was able to play the ball into the box perfectly for Allen’s goal.
Just as Stoke seemed ready to put the match away and secure a crucial first league victory of the season, disaster struck in stoppage time.
Venezuelan international striker Salomon Rondon scored the equaliser from a corner in the 91st minute to silence the home crowd. Failure to properly cover the far post and poor defending from goalkeeper Lee Grant and centre-back Bruno Martins Indi led to Pulis’ side earning a point in his 1,000th competitive match as a manager.
With a trip to Old Trafford and Manchester United looming next weekend, we highlight areas Mark Hughes will need to address within his squad ahead.
A difficult start pushing forward saw the match open up for Stoke late, and Hughes will want to see his attacking players finish off more opportunities in scoring positions.
Better overall performances from Wilfried Bony and Marko Arnautovic should hopefully find the Potters more goals.
Contributions from Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay will certainly help as well, but Hughes will need to see the frontline of his 4-3-3 formation be more dangerous in the opposing half.
The goal from West Brom in stoppage time was unfortunate. Stoke City had fought hard and were on their way to a well-earned clean sheet.
What the equlising goal showcased was Stoke’s need to concentrate on finishing out a victory. Poor attempts at a clearance and a dangerous portion in front of goal left open will ultimately see more frustrating moments like Rondon’s header in the future.
Stoke defended five other corner kicks successfully, held West Brom to three shots on goal and had the majority of possession throughout the match. But moments where the foot is taken off the gas pedal can undo all of the strong play before it.
Mark Hughes coming up against Manchester United is always filled with drama and emotion. Over 300 appearances as a Red Devil player and his two seasons in charge of Manchester City (2008-2009) make this encounter an intriguing one.
With Stoke in dire need of their first victory and his own position possibly on the line, Mark Hughes will want to see his squad take control early and find a result that could change the course of their 2016-17 season.