Sunday 23 July 2017

Hughes insists Potters can snatch seventh

Sunderland 1 Stoke City 3

Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters
Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters

Damian Spellman

Mark Hughes is urging Stoke to cling on to the coat-tails of the top six and he targets a best Premier League finish for the club.

Yesterday's victory at Sunderland left the Potters in ninth place on 27 points and Hughes believes ultimately they should be challenging for European qualification.

Marko Arnautovic celebrates. Photo: Reuters
Marko Arnautovic celebrates. Photo: Reuters

He said: "At some point in the future, we want to be hopefully qualifying by league position for Europe, but this year clearly that's going to be very, very difficult.

"The top six are going to be too far away for the rest of us to challenge for those positions, but clearly from seventh down, there's an opportunity and we are always trying to achieve things that haven't been done in the Premier League for Stoke City.

"If we could get eighth or seventh, that's something that's never been done by a Stoke City team in the Premier League, so that's our challenge"

Marko Arnautovic did the early damage here, opening the scoring with a 15th-minute strike and doubling his tally seven minutes later in style after exchanging passes with Xherdan Shaqiri and Peter Crouch.

David Moyes is doing all in his power to keep Sunderland in Premier League. Photo: Reuters
David Moyes is doing all in his power to keep Sunderland in Premier League. Photo: Reuters

Hughes said: "Everybody is talking about it. At the time, you are always following other things, then you see it develop and you see a couple of one-twos and then all of a sudden you think, 'If we get the final pass, then it's going to be an opportunity for a goal'. Thankfully that's what happened. "

Crouch capitalised on an error by hapless 'keeper Vito Mannone to make it 3-0 with the 99th Premier League goal of his career and his 50th strike for the Potters.

Shell-shocked Sunderland boss David Moyes saw Jermain Defoe reduce the deficit to spark an improved second-half display, but to no avail.

Asked if the opening 35 minutes was as difficult to watch as anything he has seen as Black Cats' boss, Moyes said: "Yes, but it was down to three individual mistakes. If it was tactical or something different . . . but it was just three poor mistakes which never allowed us to get going, really."

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