Stoke have their merry way with Manchester City
Stoke City produced an impressive performance against title hopefuls Manchester City as they cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory at the Britannia Stadium in yesterday’s early Premier League kickoff.
Marko Arnautović was tormentor in chief as his first-half brace put Man City to the sword, and he could have easily finished the match with four to his name were it not for the woodwork and a brilliant stop by goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The Citizens went into yesterday’s clash aiming to build on back-to-back victories, against Southampton in the league and Hull City in the Capital One Cup quarterfinals, but made the worst possible start to the contest as the Potters claimed the lead after just seven minutes of play.
Xherdan Shaqiri skipped past three players on the right flank before whipping in a cross towards the danger area, where Arnautović managed to nip in front of his marker to prod home from close range.
The Citizens were still reeling from the opening goal when Stoke struck again eight minutes later. The effervescent Shaqiri was the architect once again, slipping a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Arnautović, who hit a first-time shot past Hart.
City were struggling to impose themselves on proceedings and had a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away by the referee on the half-hour mark after Raheem Sterling went to ground under the slightest of contact from Geoff Cameron.
The injury-enforced absence of key duo Sergio Agüero and Yaya Touré was certainly being felt by Manuel Pellegrini’s side, with the fit-again David Silva unable to unlock an obstinate Stoke defence.
Arnautović, meanwhile, continued to cause City’s shaky defence all sorts of problems, and he nearly netted a third on 37 minutes, nodding just inches wide from an Erik Peters cross.
City had a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit on the stroke of halftime, but couldn’t find a way past Jack Butland as the England international reacted quickly to keep out Aleksandar Kolarov’s powerful shot with an outstretched foot.
The irrepressible Arnautović had another good chance just moments before the half-time whistle, but was denied by the woodwork after being played through on goal by none other than Shaqiri.
The Citizens came out from the halftime break unchanged as Pellegrini kept faith in his underperforming stars. However, it seems his faith was misplaced as the visitors failed to make an impact in the final third of the pitch.
A change in personnel eventually came on the hour mark, with Fabian Delph and Kelechi Iheanacho coming on for Wilfried Bony and Fernandinho. However, it didn’t have the desired effect, as Stoke’s staunch defence continued to frustrate the visiting Citizens.
Stoke continued to create chances as the second half wore on, with Shaqiri forcing Hart into action on 64 minutes, while, at the opposite end of the pitch, Delph fired way over the bar from about 23 metres out.
Bojan Krkić very nearly notched a third for Stoke in the 72nd minute after latching on to a through pass from Shaqiri. But his first touch was slightly too heavy, allowing Hart to nip in and snuff out the danger.
A disappointing afternoon went from bad to worse in the 75th minute as Fernandinho hobbled off the pitch with a hamstring injury, leaving the Citizens with 10 men on the pitch following the three substitutions earlier in the half.
Fortunately for Pellegrini and his side, Stoke were unable to add to their twogoal advantage as the scoreline remained unchanged in the remaining minutes.