Friday 19 October 2018

Crouch grabs point against Puel's Foxes

Stoke City 2 Leicester City 2

Peter Crouch celebrates scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Getty Images
Peter Crouch celebrates scoring his side's second goal. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Doyle

Peter Crouch came off the bench to head an equaliser as Stoke twice came from behind to prevent Claude Puel from making it two wins from two matches as Leicester manager.

The Frenchman could take satisfaction from this performance, including the goals by Vicente Iborra and Riyad Mahrez, but can only have been frustrated by the defending that allowed Stoke to nick a share of the points thanks to goals by Xherdan Shaqiri and Crouch.

Leicester City's French manager Claude Puel gestures to supporters. Photo: Getty Images
Leicester City's French manager Claude Puel gestures to supporters. Photo: Getty Images

Puel has said that his intention is to make Leicester more versatile, insisting that they could not continue to rely on counter-attacking and here Leicester were proactive and fluent from the outset.

It took a while for the visitors to threaten a breakthrough. When they did, Demarai Gray was to the fore. The 21-year-old winger sparkled here, frequently leaving poor Kurt Zouma bedazzled. In the 11th minute Gray skipped past Zouma down the left and delivered a low cross for Jamie Vardy, whose close-range shot was blocked by Kevin Wimmer.

Such was the danger posed by Gray that Stoke doubled up on him, Mame Birame Diouf regularly coming to the aid of Zouma. Puel's suggestion that the young Englishman had the potential to be similar to Eden Hazard, whom the Frenchman managed at Lille, was not looking absurd.

With Leicester controlling possession away from home, they were almost beaten at their own old game when Mahrez had the ball pinched off him midway inside opposition territory and Stoke almost struck on the counter-attack. Ramadan Sobhi found Maxim Choupo-Moting but Kasper Schmeichel saved his tame shot.

Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in action. Photo: Getty Images
Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in action. Photo: Getty Images

Four minutes later, Leicester took the lead from a set-piece. Harry Maguire met a corner by Mahrez at the back post and headed the ball back across goal, leaving Iborra to sweep it into the net.

Leicester briefly threatened to run amok. Mahrez let Stoke off by delaying a pass to Vardy after a mistake by Zouma, and then Iborra almost reprised the opening goal but this time his shot was blocked. In the 37th minute, Gray left Zouma in a tizzy again and pinged in another cross for Okazaki, whose header was tipped over by Jack Butland.

Then, at a point when it seemed as if Stoke's best hope was to survive to half-time without conceding again, the home team equalised. Iborra and Christian Fuchs, perhaps rendered overconfident by Leicester's dominance, lost sight of Shaqiri and Choupo-Moting picked him out with a cute flicked pass. After scurrying into the right-hand side of the box, Shaqiri curled the ball around the advancing Schmeichel and into the net.

Mahrez nearly restored Leicester's lead early in the second half, collecting a pass from Gray before firing inches past the far post from 10 yards. Schmeichel had to make a terrific save from a header by Ryan Shawcross following a corner and then, moments later, Mahrez did give Leicester their lead back. Wilfried Ndidi whacked the ball off the toe of Diouf on halfway and, perhaps unwittingly, released Mahrez down the right. The Algerian shrugged off Eric Pieters, skittered into the area and slammed a low shot into the far corner.

Mark Hughes had picked the same Stoke side that had assuaged criticism of him by winning at Watford last week but Leicester's second goal was the catalyst for him to make a change. So on came Crouch to Stoke's rescue. Four minutes later, the 36-year-old met an outswinging corner by Shaqiri and banged a header into the net. New Leicester, maybe, same trusty Crouch.

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