Bojan is Hughes saviour
Stoke and West Ham settle for a 1-1 draw
It is a sign of the impressive evolution of this Stoke City side that manager Mark Hughes can turn to a former Barcelona starlet from the substitute’s bench, as Bojan Krkic served notice of his enduring talents in this 1-1 stalemate.
This was Krkic’s first appearance since the 4-1 defeat by Crystal Palace on September 18 and it has been one of the peculiarities of Stoke’s season that the Catalan forward has not featured more often.
Bojan has had to bide his time during the past six weeks, watching on from the bench as Hughes has favoured Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony in a new-look forward line.
So this became a day of significance for the forward, as he emerged from the dugout to rescue a point and extend Stoke’s unbeaten run to six matches.
Indeed, he had only been on the field for five minutes when he hooked the ball goalwards to equalise late on and cancel out a Glenn Whelan own goal.
For West Ham, this represented another disappointed set-back. In their new stadium, Slaven Bilic’s side have now failed to win home matches against Watford, Southampton, Middlesbrough and Stoke this season.
Bilic will know very well that for a campaign that promised so much, this is simply not good enough and the mild boos that greeted the final whistle indicated as much.
They are 16 in the Premier League and their next four assignments include trips to Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as a home match against Arsenal. This, therefore, may well get worse before it gets better.
West Ham are missing the verve of last season and for forty-five minutes here, this was as sterile an encounter as you will see all season long. For an hour or so, this was a game that delivered less than a sum of its parts.
Bilic took remedial action on 60 minutes and hree minutes later, we had a goal at last. As ever, DimitriPayet was at the heart of West Ham’s enterprise. Michail Antonio glanced the ball on with a header that flicked off the Stoke man and deceived Lee Grant in the Stoke goal.
Stoke City’s Bojan Krkic celebrates scoring thefirst goal.