It’s not the result the Mark Hughes needed. A smash-and-grab performance from the Tigers saw the Potters knocked out of the EFL Cup. The defeat was a further blow to what has been an awful week and start to the season for Hughes.
Despite controlling the majority of the 90 minutes, Stoke found themselves undone by last minute winner following a simple ball into the box, inflicting a fourth straight defeat on Hughes’ men.
In an effort to freshen things up, Hughes named five changes from the side who were beaten at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Loanee Lee Grant deputised Shay Given in goal. Erik Pieters came in at left back, as Geoff Cameron moved into the holding role alongside Joe Allen with Glen Whelan making way. Imbula and Egyptian youngster Ramadan replaced Jon Walters and Bojan.
Stoke out of the blocks with a purpose
Despite a low attendance of 10,550, Stoke started brightly. Marko Arnautovic steadied himself on the edge of the box but saw his volley go wide inside the first five minutes.
Neat work from Ramadan saw him cut the ball back to Wilfried Bony, whose effort took a nick on the way through to go behind.
Geoff Cameron got his head to the ensuing corner, and only another block prevented Bruno Martins Indi getting his first Potters goal.
Stoke continued to grow into the game, as Ryan Shawcross couldn’t get over his half-volley as it went crashing over the bar.
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The Potters’ pressure was finally rewarded, as Marko Arnautovic was back to his trademark best.
Just before the half-hour mark, Arnautovic picked the ball up on the right-hand side. Cutting inside in usual fashion on his left foot, the Austrian smacked the ball past Hull keeper David Marshall.
The strike was Arnautovic’s second goal in as many games.
Ramadan again found Bony in space in the box minutes later. The Ivorian, though, couldn’t get enough on it and put his effort wide.
Stoke continued to press the issue, and could have been out of sight by half-time. Glen Johnson, Bony, Imbula and Arnautovic all went close as the game neared the interval.
For all of Stoke’s dominance, they were made to pay by a moment of brilliance. A long ball found Ryan Mason who smashed a half-volley past Grant.
Hull hardly deserved to go into the break level, however nothing can be taken away from the quality of the strike.
Second half frustration for Stoke
The second period started slowly, with Stoke eager to get back on the ball. Struggling to break down a stubborn Hull defence, clear-cut chances were getting harder to come by.
A searching cross and a disguised free-kick from Ramadan and Arnautovic came just before a rare venture forward for Hull.
Martins Indi had to keep his focus, as he did well to slice away a cross that could well have gone anywhere.
The flattening atmosphere and performance prompted Hughes to make changes. In a double substitution, Bony and Imbula made way for Biram Diouf and Charlie Adam.
Adam looked to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Further positive running from Ramadan generated a first-time chance for the Scot, forcing Marshall to punch the effort away.
Stoke continued to dominate the game and a jinking run from Diouf brought another save from Marshall.
The last 15 minutes saw more of the same. A goalmouth scramble resulting in three Potters efforts turned away by last-ditch Hull defending.
Hull were virtually non-existent in attack for the entirety of the match. A hopeful ball into the box from Hull debutant James Weir found Will Keane. Keane rolled the ball back to Markus Henriksen who made no mistake.
Stoke desperately searched a late equaliser, but Joe Allen snatched at a half chance and saw his effort bobble wide.
Shortly after, referee Chris Kavanagh blew to condemn the Potters to an unjust fourth defeat in five games.
Pity for Mark Hughes
There is no question Stoke were far and away the more direct side Wednesday night. With 21 attempts to Hull’s five, this speaks volumes.
On another night, Stoke could well have won this fixture by three goals, maybe more.
At times it just doesn’t go your way and Mark Hughes will be looking to the heavens tonight wondering what they had to do to score.
The Welshman will feel hard done by tonight, knowing full well that another defeat will now add further pressure onto his shoulders.
So what next? A meeting with Tony Pulis and West Brom on Saturday is a massive, massive game. Failure to win against the Baggies will undoubtedly have the jury baying for heads to roll.
For Hughes, the timing couldn’t be worse to have a managerial predecessor turning up. Stoke fans will be eager to put one over on old boss Pulis. This factor will no doubt turn up the pressure before 3pm on Saturday.