Stoke City’s resounding first-half display against basement-dwellers Sunderland was enough to see the Potters return to Staffordshire with three points.
The Stadium of Light hosted Stoke City this weekend and we weren’t disappointed. I am certain that Sunderland will not be enjoying Premier League football next year, which makes them a team we should certainly be giving a good hiding. A brace from Marko Arnoutovic set the ball rolling but it could have been more…
Mark Hughes ditched the back-three system, and opted for a 4-3-2-1 set-up.
If previous recent results were anything to go by, the manager made the correct decision on Wearside.
I feel Hughes was looking for goals with the previous formations when really the team just needed some structure and a proven finisher.
Sunderland were without 11 first team players on Saturday. Their make shift midfield were left stranded in the mud as Stoke City’s movement was far superior.
As we all know, the chances have been coming recently – the finishing, not so much.
Glowing first period for Stoke City
To begin with, Stoke were a little hesitant and impatient. However they quickly found some composure and were passing the ball well within the Sunderland half.
The first chance of the day came to Peter Crouch after a Joe Allen cross. Crouch was challenged and was forced to head wide. On the 11 minute mark, some good wide play allowed Glen Johnson to put the ball in the box.
Crouch was there again, this time his header blocked and put out for a corner. With vast amount of space for the full backs to get up and push on, it wasn’t long before the Black Cats defence finally buckled.
15 minutes in, and Xherdan Shaqiri played a great long ball forward to Marko Arnautovic whose shot hit the legs of Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone. The ball rebounded back to his feet, and he made no mistake with his second bite of the cherry.
It was the Austrian’s first strike in 13 games – and no less than Stoke City deserved.
The goal seemed to wake Sunderland up, who began to apply some pressure of their own. With men committed forward and Stoke City soaking up the pressure like a sponge, it was inevitable that Stoke would break on the counter attack.
After 22 minutes, Stoke did exactly that. The ball came to Arnautovic who played a neat one-two with Shaqiri. A wall of Sunderland defenders were left standing as the winger played another give-and-go with Crouch. With time and space, he curled a magnificent shot past the outstretched Mannone to give the Potters a 2-0 lead.
More from Stoke City FC News
- Stoke City Key Injuries to Watch Before Millwall
- Josh Laurent Helps Steer Stoke City to Victory
- Stoke City vs. Luton Town: Recap
- Stoke City Wrap Up Transfer Deadline Day with Two Moves
- Leicester City Set to Complete Move for Stoke’s Harry Souttar
With Sunderland looking very vulnerable in defence, the home side looked to gain a foothold with possession. Stoke, though, were still eager to catch Sunderland on the break, and good work from Erik Pieters saw a half-chance fall to Shaqiri who couldn’t make it three.
The next three minutes saw Stoke extend their lead further; Charlie Adam the provider with an excellent cross from the left as Crouch rose above a flapping Mannone to make it 3-0.
Jack Rodwell came close to opening Sunderland’s scoring when he broke free of the Stoke City defence, his shot though, comfortably beaten away by Lee Grant.
Five minutes later, and a desperate, route-one long ball finds Jermain Defoe. Defoe turned smartly and beat Grant in a one-on-one pulling one back for the hosts.
Despite the brief revival, Stoke City headed into the break deservedly leading 3-1.
A smart second-half job
Sunderland started the second period brightly, showing their intent when Fabio Borini was allowed to get in behind Bruno Martins Indi.
Grant was able to deal with the Italian’s shot and palmed it away. Sunderland’s brightness dimmed a few minutes later when an Adam free kick went just wide of the post.
Sunderland didn’t lie down, and had a few chances that they could not convert. Stoke, predictably, sat back and managed the game cleverly as the minutes ticked away.
With second half coming to a close, Shaqiri was able to sprint the length of the pitch.
A great ball into Arnautovic could then had killed the game off entirely and completed his hat-trick, but for his control to let him down at the last.
Most definitely a game of two halves. The first showing the world exactly what the Potters can do in attack.
The second, a lesson in how to cope with pressure. Also the game allowed Hughes to tinker with the formation, and show that you don’t have to play three at the back if you want goals.
I cannot praise Adam and Crouch enough at the minute, they’ve been a massive part of the recent goal rush, with Arnautovic hopefully back to his best, and Shaqiri pulling the strings in midfield.
Pieters and Johnson were tremendous getting up and down from full-back positions, while Ryan Shawcross has totally forgotten his trip to Anfield.
Joe Allen’s deeper role has seen him go a bit quiet of late, but still giving solid performances, and Lee Grant is as solid as ever.
It’s positive recent signs from the Potters. More of the same, please.