Hughes fumes as Wolves make Stoke pay for first-half weak­ness

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT - By Steve Sut­cliffe

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.”

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