Bo­jan is Hughes saviour

Stoke and West Ham set­tle for a 1-1 draw

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports International Football - BY ADAM CRAFTON/

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.

/REUTERS

Stoke City’s Bo­jan Kr­kic cel­e­brates scor­ing the­first goal.

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