It was a tale of two halves for Stoke City in their scoreless draw Saturday against QPR in West London. QPR had some moments in the first half, but the better team for the first 45 minutes was by far Stoke City with 53% possession. In the second half of the game, tables flipped when QPR controlled most of the latter parts of the game with 64% possession.
The First Half
Early in the first half, Dwight Gayle for Stoke City had a worldie of a goal disallowed because of an offsides call. Gayle would later also send an attempt just wide from inside the 18-yard box.
Stoke City was just overall more aggressive with both Tariqe Fosu-Henry and Ben Wilmot playing very high up the pitch at wing-back. This forced QPR to play off of their back foot for a lot of the opening 45 minutes and allowed Stoke City to keep more possession.
The Second Half
QPR made some crucial adjustments at halftime becoming an extremely dangerous attacking side. QPR took away The Potters width and space they had out of halftime to win the ball back regularly. QPR controlled the ball with 64% possession and fired the ball towards Potters goalkeeper Josef Bursik 14 times. Four of those attempts, Bursik was forced into action to make big saves.
Very late in the game, Stoke City did have some chances to win the game and steal all three points. But for the majority of the half, it was Stoke City weathering a big storm. To their credit they weathered that storm and took a point because of it. While manager Alex Neil would have wanted all three points against QPR, Stoke City grabbing a point on the road Saturday and all three points on Tuesday should be seen as a win for the team going into the international break.
Who stood out for Stoke City against QPR?
Tariqe Fosu-Henry, the life-preserver: Fosu-Henry was the player of the game for Stoke City. Surprisingly it wasn’t his offensive work that stood out. It was his defensive work. Fosu-Henry was regularly on an island by himself in the first half defending counter attacks one versus one. Second half he was also forced into defensive action out wide regularly.
He did fail to clear the ball on one occasion in the second half, which almost led to a goal. He passed all other tests thrown his way though and was a massive reason Stoke City didn’t concede a goal or more chances.
Josef Bursik, the brick wall: If Bursik had been forced into more saves in the first half, he likely would have been the man of the match for Stoke City. Bursik, while solid in the first half, didn’t have to face much pressure in the form of saves..
The second half was very different as Bursik kept Stoke City in the game. Bursik made game-rescuing saves at every turn he was called upon. Specifically a save he made on a far post header from a cross. Bursik showed off great positioning following the ball across goal in perfect position to smother what should have been a goal attempt.
Dwight Gayle, the unlucky: Gayle is so close to scoring, you would think he’s cursed not to. First half had a goal called back because he was offside. He made some other good attempts towards goal as well. He’ll find the back of the net very soon and continues to be Stoke City’s most dynamic attacker.
Liam Delap, the ineffective: Delap continues to be so-so to even you might say poor for The Potters. He wasn’t very involved in the game with the touches he did have. He also again made poor decisions linking up play on Stoke City’s break.
Honorary mentions: Tyrese Campbell and Aden Flint
Campbell came on late, but looked explosive and quick. He nearly won the game as well in the final minutes with an attempt that went just wide.
All Flint does is win headers in front of his own goal and the opponents goal on set pieces. He’s crucial for Stoke City defensively and on set pieces.