Post by Football News on Dec 16, 2017 18:49:09 GMT
Stoke 0 - 3 West Ham
Mark Noble helps give West Ham a lift as Stoke and Mark Hughes suffer
Away team scorers Mark Noble 19 Pen Marko Arnautovic 75 Diafra Sakho 86
Marko Arnautovic loped from the pitch with a flea in his ear from Mark Hughes and a piece of Stoke City clothing, hurled from the stands, in his hand. The latter was quickly discarded; Hughes must now be close to a similar fate after his former charge heaped on the embarrassment in a match delayed by an hour due to a power failure. There could be no better metaphor for Stoke’s performance; they will rightly dispute the penalty, dispatched by Mark Noble, that started the rout but offered no coherent threat of their own and departed looking shell-shocked.
For almost 18 minutes the only incident worthy of comment had been the glare Arnautovic, abused roundly by his former public, offered Pablo Zabaleta after the West Ham wing-back had misread his intention to receive a short pass. Nearly everyone on the pitch will have known that look of scorn; it had nothing, though, on the anger that greeted Graham Scott’s decision to award the spot-kick shortly afterwards.
The sequence that brought it was the kind that seems all the more frequent when everything is going wrong. Stoke, willing but disjointed in the early exchanges, had come within a post’s width of scoring when Ryan Shawcross greeted a free-kick from the right with a bouncing header across Adrián. Nobody could reach the rebound and West Ham broke immediately, Manuel Lanzini ferrying the ball down the inside-left tramline before finding himself confronted by Erik Pieters.
What happened next left Hughes and Stoke raging. It is possible to see how, at full speed, Scott perceived Pieters had taken Lanzini’s legs away; the forward had angled his body slightly between opponent and ball and the sliding tackle had made no impact on the latter. Replays suggested Lanzini had, at best, dived into Pieters’s challenge and if the Football Association agree then a ban will be likely.
Not that Noble, who converted calmly, cared. West Ham’s captain would not see the half out, picking up an injury 35 minutes in and being replaced by Declan Rice, but until then Stoke’s response had been skittish. West Ham remained dangerous and Arnautovic would have made thing worse if, sent behind the defence after Pieters had misread a long clearance, he had linked the ball over Jack Butland rather than allowing him to block.
In first-half added time he drew more jeers when, after deceiving Kevin Wimmer beautifully, he missed the target from an even better position.
Butland was also pressed into action by a 30-yard shot by Lanzini. All that Stoke could offer was a decent run and drive by Xherdan Shaqiri, deflected just over by Zabaleta, and another serviceable effort curled wide by the same player. Mame Biram Diouf’s dramatic tumble in the box as he challenged for a high ball, treated with the correct level of disdain by Scott, hinted at the level of injustice the home side felt.
They began the second half on top but it was Arnautovic, craning his neck to keep a free-kick in play, who came close again when his looped header grazed the crossbar. The chance had come about after Arthur Masuaku, dancing between three opponents, was crudely felled by Shawcross; for all Stoke’s growing pressure the moments of desperation, at either end, were generally theirs.
Mark Hughes remonstrates with Marko Arnautovic as the former Stoke player leaves the pitch. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters As the hour mark approached Arnautovic, who by now gave an air of wanting that goal a little too much, missed his best opportunity yet after cutting in from the left only to shoot wide with the hard part done. Moments earlier Diouf had drawn howls by allowing Masuaku to dispossess him when poised to cross. He was soon hauled off as part of a triple substitution by Hughes. Naturally enough the next act came from Arnautovic, though, this time opening up his left foot and clipping the bar again.
He then volleyed into the side-netting and you wondered whether Stoke might provide cause for regret. They had one chance, Shawcross heading over in the 73rd minute, but then the pantomime villain finally took one of his own. His jabbed finish was unerring, the defending of Lanzini’s chipped pass statuesque.
“Hughes out,” came the chant and when Diafra Sakho scored a late third the mood turned ugly. The joke after the power failure had been that perhaps Stoke needed a Sparky after all; that view may now need urgent reappraisal.