Hughes fumes as Wolves make Stoke pay for first-half weakness
Stoke manager Mark Hughes has fantastic memories of the FA Cup, but this “insipid” defeat by Wolves threatened to besmirch them and left him unable to contain his anger.
Hughes’s trophy-laden record as a player has yet to translate to management and here a dose of lethargy led to another adjournment for the four-time Cup winner. Wolves, a club with a rich heritage but precious little recent success, capitalised on the hosts’ inertia and could have scored three times before Helder Costa (pictured celebrating) laid the foundations for victory in the 29th minute with a goal that his manager Paul Lambert described as “world class”.
The visitors, who had not won an FA Cup tie for six years, were imaginative and energetic, belying their lowly station in the Championship.
Stoke’s passive contribution, though, fuelled their fire and Hughes’s ire. “I was certainly angry,” he said. “I picked a team that on paper should have had enough quality and talent to be able to take the game away from Wolves. We emphasised all week what we wanted to do and how we needed to approach it.
“Games aren’t played on paper, they are played on stadium pitches and sometimes you’ve got to put a shift in and get on the front foot and affect the game in a positive manner and we didn’t have enough in the first half.”
After an unpalatable opening period for Hughes, who at times displayed more intensity in the technical area than those representing him on the pitch, the hosts finally displayed some gusto.
“Second half we were better but we got ourselves into a situation which, in the Cup, we’ve seen time and time again where teams will hang on and go through at your expense. We are disappointed because it was a competition we wanted to progress in but we will have to wait for next year,” he added. Wolves were able to resist a second-half maelstrom, largely thanks to the contribution of their goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who made four wondrous saves to prevent Marko Arnautovic, Ibrahim Afellay, Joe Allen and Peter Crouch from drawing Stoke level before Matt Doherty’s coruscating free-kick confirmed their progression. “In the first half he had nothing to do he was comfortable,” said manager Paul Lambert. “Second half he made four world-class saves. Ikeme is a big character for us, a big player. When you need your goalkeeper in big moments, he was [there for us]. Not just as a goalkeeper, as a character, he’s been fantastic for us.”