It was an afternoon of familiar stories at the Bet 365 Stadium on Saturday as Stoke entertained Leicester in a thrilling encounter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the score-line finished 2-2, a result which has now occurred in the last three times in which Stoke have hosted the Foxes. Another recognisable story was the way Stoke gained their 2nd goal. A corner was floated in and who else but Peter Crouch was on the end of it in a familiar style as he headed the ball past the on-looking Kasper Schmeichel. The ‘super sub’ struck again and he has become an extremely reliable substitute for Mark Hughes’ men. It was Riyad Mahrez who put Leicester into a 2-1 lead as he delightfully opened up his body and slotted the ball past Butland, the Algerian certainly looks to be back to his best in recent weeks.
The game at the Bet365 begun slowly with Stoke giving Leicester the fair share of the early possession. Hughes’ men were very subdued with their approach and didn’t offer much going forward either. Yet, the game sprung into life and both teams were presented with opportunities to break the deadlock. Choupo Moting found himself running down at the Leicester goal however was denied by a good save from the Dane in goal.
It was Leicester who were given the next opportunity and Vicente Iborra didn’t fail to take the chance. He riffled the ball in from 8 yards out when Mahrez’ corner was met by Harry Maguire who nodded it down to the Spaniard who simply couldn’t miss. Leicester then wasted two brilliant opportunities with Okazaki having a header well saved by Butland and Iborra heading over from 10 yards out after a pin-point cross from Demari Gray; who once again produced a strong performance in front of the England manager, Gareth Southgate. With Puel’s men struggling to capitalise on their dominance, it was Stoke who had the final say of the half with Shaqiri latching onto a beautiful first time ball from Choupo Moting and the Swiss man did the rest.
The second half was an end to end affair and it was Leicester who scored the first goal of the half again with Ndidi winning the ball in the middle of the field and setting free Mahrez who joyfully did the rest. He shrugged off Eric Pieter’s and opened his body up striking his left foot through the ball past Butland. With the last two fixtures held in Stoke, it has been Leicester who have fought back from two goals down on both occasions to gain a point, but this time it was the men in red and white who came back from a goal down twice to earn a point.
The turning point, not for the first time in a game involving Stoke City, was the introduction of Peter Crouch who only took four minutes to prove his arrival. Crouch lost Maguire, who arguably should have done better with marking the striker, and bulleted his header past Schmeichel in the Leicester Goal. Stoke manager, Mark Hughes, stated “Peter’s quality and attributes are there for all to see. He came on and was a real threat, once you bring him on he’s a completely different problem for the opposition.”
The goal was Crouch’s third goal in his seventh league appearance as a sub this campaign. The goal was also Crouch’s 52nd headed goal in the Premier League, now 6 ahead of Alan Shearer who has 46 headed goals respectively. The finish puts Crouch on 107 Premier League goals, which is joint 22nd in all time alongside the legend that is Paul Scholes. Another record was also made with Crouch’s introduction. This was Crouch’s 142nd appearances as a substitute in the Premier League, a joint record alongside Shola Ameobi, it’s fair to say he is definitely a legend of the game and isn’t a bad substitute for Hughes’ side too.
Stoke nearly took all the spoils as the last kick of the game was met by Crouch who darted a header at Schmeichel. However, it was the Dane, who came out on top this time and punched the header away to safety.
Is an England call up too much to ask for the 36-year-old? Probably yes, but his time in Stoke is definitely not going to end anytime soon.