Three things that we learnt: Stoke City 2-0 Sunderland
Joe Allen came up trumps in the battle of the Premier League’s basement clubs to ease the pressure on Stoke City manager Mark Hughes and leave David Moyes’ team rooted to the foot of the table.
The Welsh midfielder scored a first half brace earn to earn The Potters a much-needed first win of the season. After just eight minutes he nodded in Marko Arnautovic’s cross before adding a second on the stroke of half time, just as Sunderland were hoping for fifteen minutes of reprieve, following a poorly defended corner.
In truth, The Black Cats failed to turn up in the first “relegation six-pointer” of the campaign, allowing the home side to canter to victory.
Sunderland fearing the worst; Stoke turn the corner
Both of these clubs have made a poor start to the new season and started the game still searching for their first league win(s) of the campaign.
Stoke City certainly did not look like relegation candidates on this performance, playing some excellent football and creating a host of chances that, if not for a number of excellent saves from Jordan Pickford and the aid of the crossbar, could have seen the visitors suffer a much heavier defeat.
Mark Hughes’ side are now three games unbeaten and have a relatively long list of upcoming winnable fixtures that could easily see The Potters move into the safety of mid-table.
However, defeat will leave David Moyes fearing the worst and a long, hard season awaits the former Everton and Manchester united manager who will have to call upon every inch of his expertise and experience if he is to steer The Black Cats to safety.
Unfortunately, the current Sunderland squad looks completely inadequate for life in the Premier League, especially considering their current injury troubles, a fact summed up by the lack of viable options that Moyes could call upon from the bench.
Whilst Stoke boasted the attacking talents of Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri (Bojan was an unused substitute) the visitors were forced to throw on 34-year-old Steven Pienaar and free-transfer Victor Anichebe as they chased the game in the second half.
Stoke City have match-winners in their squad, but, aside from Jermain Defoe, The Black cats look devoid of any real quality.
The Welsh Wizard Joe Allen
It was a day of first’s for Stoke City. First win of the season. First clean sheet of the season. First time that the team have scored more than one goal in a Premier League fixture this season. You sense that The Potters may well have turned the corner and Mark Hughes certainly has a lot to thank Joe Allen for this evening.
The Welsh midfielder is thriving in an advanced central midfield role and, quite simply, he was head and shoulders above any other player on the pitch at the Bet365 Stadium.
In addition to his two well taken goals, Allen covered every blade of grass in an energetic display that saw him demonstrate his technical ability, vast range of passing, and defensive commitment that rightly saw him named as the Man of the Match.
Allen is relishing life in The Potteries and looks revitalised following his £13 million transfer from Liverpool in the summer, and he was certainly the difference between the two teams.
A sorry tale of two record signings
Both of these two sides have broken their transfer record during the last year, with Giannelli Imbula arriving at Stoke from Porto for £18 million in January and Gabon international midfielder Didier Ndong signing for Sunderland for £13.6 million over the summer, but both had afternoons to forget.
Ndong made a bright start to the game and demonstrated his technical prowess with a number of incisive forward passes in the opening half hour, but faded badly as the match progressed. By the mid-point of the second half the former Lorient midfielder was little more than a disinterested passenger offering very little to the Sunderland cause. David Moyes will need to find a way of getting the most out of his record signing, who undoubtedly possesses an abundance of talent, if The Black Cats are to have any hope of escaping the drop.
However, Ndong did fair slightly better than Imbula. The young Frenchman was left out of the match day squad entirely by Mark Hughes and his omission would suggest that the club have run out of patience with their record signing following a string of unimpressive early season performances.
It is unlikely that Stoke City chairman Peter Coates will want to cut his losses on the £18 million investment he made just ten months ago, but it would appear that Imbula has fallen way down the pecking order at The Potters.
Feature image: All rights reserved by Lana2021 (Lana2021)
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