Bournemouth snatched a late victory to move up to third place as Stoke’s striker woes continued on a cold January evening in front of the Sky TV cameras.
An injury ravaged Stoke squad had endured an indifferent patch of form in the lead up to the game, with just one loss, one win and four draws in the last six – three of which had finished 0-0. Michael O’Neill made two changes to a 1-1 home draw against Nottingham Forest just four days earlier, with John Obi-Mikel and Steven Fletcher replacing Jacob Brown and Sam Vokes. He again called upon the same 352 formation that he had deployed in recent weeks, with Powell and the aforementioned Fletcher leading the line for the Potters.
Bournemouth had enjoyed a respectable return to the Championship so far, with Jason Tindall’s men sat in fifth place with two games in hand over most of their promotion rivals. They had lost 2-1 to Brentford last time out, but had been five unbeaten before that defeat. Tindall made three changes to his last side, with Brooks and Billing dropping out for Surridge and Rico.
It had been a snowy day in the Potteries, but the bet365 Stadium pitch looked as crisp as usual for an exciting encounter between 5th and 8th placed in the league.
Both teams would want to make a winning start to the year in front of the Sky cameras on a wintry Saturday evening in Staffordshire.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) January 2, 2021
The first big opportunity of the affair fell to the visitors at the feet of Surridge, but he got his snapshot all wrong and placed the ball wide after Rico was allowed to cross too easily.
Jordan Thompson had Stoke’s first shot of the game after nine minutes, but his half volley sailed comfortably over Begovic’s bar.
Stoke had settled into the game well, and the game looked open as Bournemouth were allowing their hosts to see a lot of the ball, but City were wasteful in front of goal.
Former Stoke keeper Begovic needed a good save to deny Joe Allen, after the Welshman had broken through Bournemouth’s defensive line into the box and shot low to his near post. City were pressing high and causing the Cherries defence problems after 17 minutes.
An excellent free-kick from Jordan Thompson may well have had Stoke fans on their feet watching on at home, but his shot had gone the wrong side of the side netting instead of nestling in the net. The Northern Irishman nearly followed up his goal from a corner last time out against Forest with what would have been another wonderful set-piece finish.
After a quiet spell and not much possession, Bournemouth had arguably the best chance to open the scoring after 22 minutes. A brilliant through ball from Lewis Cook found Solanke bearing down on goal, but the former England u21 striker could only lift the ball onto the crossbar, with keeper Bursik all but beaten.
Just minutes later, and Stoke’s injury woes were set to continue. Steven Fletcher pulled up holding his groin, and the 33 year old’s return to the squad was over after just 24 minutes. He was replaced by Jacob Brown.
The game quietened down as half time got closer, and both teams were defending well and not letting their opposing attackers have any sight of goal.
Half Time: Stoke City 0-0 AFC Bournemouth
It had been an entertaining first half, but with no goals to show for the chances so far.
Michael O’Neill would be the happier of the two managers, as his team had reduced the recently relegated visitors to just three shots and 46% possession in the first period.
The hosts had shown flashes of brilliance, and had put Bournemouth on the back foot for the majority of the half.
Despite this, Dominic Solanke will feel as if he should have put his team ahead with a gilt-edged chance that he was unable to take.
Like many of Stoke’s games recently, it looked set to be a low-scoring affair with a moment of magic needed from an attacker if either team were to take all three points.
They could expect a strong start to the second half from their visitors, with improvement needed from Jason Tindall’s men to take anything from the game.
There was clear intent from the off by Bournemouth, and Bursik had to be first to a low cross from Solanke, with the ball eventually cleared by Chester who had Surridge lurking behind him.
Stoke picked up two avoidable yellows in quick succession as Thompson brought down Solanke on as he looked to break, with Chester delaying a quick restart just 30 seconds later.
With 66 minutes gone, the Potters had the ball in Begovic’s net, but referee Brooks had already blown for a foul by Nick Powell before McClean had rolled the ball home. It looked a soft decision by the referee upon a replay.
Bournemouth began to pick up pace with the introduction of tricky winger David Brooks, as he looked to receive the ball and run at the ever-tiring Stoke defence.
Just minutes after the Welshman had come on, and the visitors had found a breakthrough. A poor touch from Jacob Brown at one end allowed Lewis Cook to find Junior Stanislas running in behind the defence, with the wide man taking one touch and tucking a shot under Bursik to find the back of the net. 80 minutes played, and it looked to be a winner for the visitors.
It was a goal that Bournemouth had hardly looked like grabbing all night, but it was testament to their desire to win and the obvious gulf in quality on paper.
Fouls were being committed by the visitors right upto the 90th minute, but it seemed as if Mr Brooks had left his cards at home for the Cherries. Lerma was first to enter the book for his team in the 92nd minute.
Josh King could have wrapped the game up for the visitors in added time, but Nathan Collins was on hand to block his shot that looked destined for the net.
Stoke were piling on the pressure as the seconds ticked past in the five minutes of added time, and Sam Vokes could have snatched an equaliser had he connected with a loose ball in the box.
It wasn’t to be for the hosts, and the full time whistle was blown with the three points being taken back down to the south coast.
Full Time: Stoke City 0-1 AFC Bournemouth
MOTM: Joe Allen
Despite not heading into the game as favourites, it was a stinging defeat for the Potters, as they had enjoyed large spells of dominance throughout. Despite this, they had struggled to test Begovic enough in the second half to get the elusive goal they needed.
Jason Tindall’s Bournemouth side must be praised for not giving up and showing character to win the game. They showed that they are able to win in an unfashionable manner when needed.
His side have now kept six clean sheets in their last seven games.
Michael O’Neill will see a striker as a main priority for the Potters in the January transfer window. Today’s blank means his side have scored just three goals in their last seven games, with not one being scored by a forward.
The rumour mill has already started in that respect, with names such as Rabbi Matondo and Bright Osayi-Samuel being touted as possible incomings.
An interesting link for Stoke and it'd be a hell of a coup to get Rabbi Matondo, who joined Man City's Academy just as Tyrese Campbell was leaving. https://t.co/vGMKAgQTm8
— Pete Smith (@PeteSmith1983) January 2, 2021
The result leaves Stoke down one place in eighth, with Bournemouth climbing up to third. The Potters now face Premier League side Leicester City in the FA Cup next, with Bournemouth travelling to Oldham Athletic.
Match report by Oliver Walton.