Stoke City 2 Leicester City 2
Report by Colin Murrant
The Stoke club historian on the big screen before the match was explaining that the 120 previous matches between the clubs had ended 40 wins apiece and 40 draws. The previous 2 encounters at the bet365 Stadium had ended 2-2, in fact Leicester had not lost at Stoke since their Premier League return four seasons ago. The pessimists might have sensed that the odds were that Stoke had to win eventually, the City optimists however felt City could take something from the game, particularly given the style of last week’s win over Everton.
Eventually the result would be the third 2-2 draw in a row between the two sides at the bet365 Stadium. The manner of the result was completely different to the last two seasons in that City led this encounter twice whereas they had previously had to come from two nil deficits. This time City were on the front foot again, far from the gloom monger’s angle on Claude Puel’s approach, and miles away from the negative approaches at recent away matches against Bournemouth and Huddersfield.
The lunchtime kick off, an early cold autumnal morning start, the infamous Stoke stadium wind with its high position and the open corners suggested an unpleasant day from a weather perspective. However, the rain eased on the journey up and we were greeted with sunshine; the free scarves from the club however were nonetheless a welcome gift to mitigate the cold.
Being Stokes’ remembrance match, the usual respect was given to the armed forces. The occasion was complete with piper and the carrying out of ‘The Somme Ball’; a ball used in a football match during the first World War: not the well reported match v the Germans, but nonetheless a poignant reminder how the love of the beautiful game is steeped in history. Apparently, there were many died when soldiers went into no-man’s land to retrieve stray balls.
The match itself was a great advertisement for the Premier League with goals and great saves plentiful, the match played in great spirit with no bad tackles nor yellow cards needed.
The mid first half substitution of referee when Madley was replaced by Moss, brought back memories that it was at Stoke last year when Vardy was sent off, and that his only other previous sending off was by Jon Moss at the King Power in that infamous match against WHU.
City started with Okazaki replacing the injured Chilwell, with Mahrez taking back the wider role.
After an even start, City gradually took control of the game and, after a series of short corners, Mahrez went long and Maguire headed back across goals where Iborra fired into the net with Butland getting a hand to the ball but not being able to stop it as it flew upwards into the net.
Okazaki had two chances, one the ball just beating his outstretched leg, another header brilliantly saved by Butland. Iborra also headed just over when he should have done better.
Then, against the run of play, Stoke equalised. A poor defensive goal for City with Fuchs caught in between two Stoke players, the decisive moment came when Maguire got sucked into midfield following the forward player and the gap that materialised was ruthlessly exploited as Stoke fed the ball through to Shaqiri who beat Schmeichel off the far post. Half Time 1-1.
The game was more even now and the next major action was on 59 minutes when a Shawcross header was saved low down by Schmeichel who emphatically pushed the ball away from danger. One minute later City were ahead, Ndidi won the ball through a gymnastic type leap, the ball went wide to Mahrez in space, Pieters tried to recover but Mahrez got away from him with guile and touch and, cutting in from the right, fired left footed through a host of players into the net.
Stoke brought on Crouch, a move that was to be significant, as significant as the injury to Iborra that had seen him replaced by Andy King. The home team won a corner, Crouch started from a penalty spot position, Stoke players blocked Maguire’s run, Crouch went near post into the area usually patrolled by the tall Iborra. The danger spotted late, Fuchs and King tried to stop Crouch getting to the header but alas in vain, 2-2.
City had further chances through Vardy and Iheanacho (the latter scoring but clearly offside), although it was Schmeichel who came to City’s rescue in the fifth minute of injury time with another splendid save. With seconds to go Stoke won a corner on City’s right from, the Foxes’ fans feared the worst, inevitably Crouch won the header only to be denied by the Schmeichel.
Gray continues to improve, his transformation from my last report at Bournemouth is staggering, he now uses his left foot more as well as his more favoured right. He also looks up more and appreciates the positions of his fellow players, his decision making seems better. He is setting new standards for himself which he should strive to maintain.
Vardy and Mahrez are looking good again, Vardy impressed me a lot yesterday with his selfless running and use of the ball. Again, different to Bournemouth he had willing helpers as he was not so isolated. Mahrez is brilliant at times but elements of his game will always frustrate.
Ndidi with his energy, Iborra with his class and control of the game, have added a solidity and security to midfield we have been missing.
Defence is not as organised as it should be, Maguire for all his positive attributes makes occasional bad decisions. He will learn and I like him a lot. I think it is a pity that Huth is not alongside him to guide him, that is not taking anything away from Morgan’s performance just that Huth in my opinion is the better organiser. On both goals conceded there was an element of lack of understanding with Fuchs.
Albrighton, came on with 10 minutes to go and I cannot remember him getting any touches. At the end he seemed to sulk off alone although he did clap the City fans. Interesting to see how Puel uses him. At the moment it appears Demari is benefitting from, and Marc suffering from the Puel reign, early days!
All in all, a good performance that promises a lot that we are on the way up again, on the balance of things we could have and should have edged this. But we know the odds were on a draw; the odds of us playing Stoke again next season at the bet365 are shortening as both teams move towards mid-table, as no doubt are the odds on a 2-2 result.
Stoke: Butland, Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer, Diouf (Berahino,86), Fletcher, Allen, Pieters, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting, Ramadan (Crouch,69). Unused Subs: Grant, Jese, Afellay, Martins Indi, Adam.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Iborra (King,66), Ndidi, Mahrez, Gray (Albrighton,80), Okazaki (Iheanacho,58), Vardy. Unused Subs: Hamer, Dragovic, Amartey, Slimani.
Referee: B Madley (Yorks). Sub 24: J Moss (W Yorks) Att: 29,602
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation