Defiant Hughes facing sack as Stoke gamble backfires badly
Stoke City 0 Newcastle United 1
Mark Hughes was back under serious pressure last night after a defeat that could become a watershed moment for the Stoke manager.
Ayoze Perez's goal in the 73rd minute secured Newcastle only their second victory in 13 Premier League games.
For the second time this season, there were loud chants of "Hughes out" from the home supporters at the final whistle and this felt like a significant, perhaps decisive blow.
Hughes surely had to win yesterday after fielding such a weakened team at Chelsea, gambling on keeping his squad fresh for this game.
A dismal defeat and the manner of the performance will only increase the scrutiny on the Welshman.
Despite his impressive first three seasons in charge, in each of which Stoke finished ninth, the statistics now are damning: he claimed only 11 wins from 40 Premier League games in 2017, while Stoke have the worst defensive record in Europe's top five leagues.
A visit of Newcastle was supposed to be the priority but taking that "calculated risk" at Chelsea could now have severe repercussions.
Hughes, however, was bullish and once again defended his team selection against the champions.
"Who else is going to do this job? In terms of the knowledge of the group and the progress in my time here, I'm the best person to do it," he said.
"We knew it was an important game and we came into it with the mindset of getting maximum points, but we came up short.
"We deserved something out of the game but we didn't get it. Now, we've got to pick ourselves up and get on with it. The players are frustrated, disappointed, but that's a consequence of the high standards that I've set here.
"Everyone's saying I gambled (at Chelsea)but what was I going to do? Risk players that had a big part to play today? I did it for the right reasons."
Stoke threatened only sporadically and their plight was summed up when £12m signing Xherdan Shaqiri was replaced in the 57th minute to boos from the crowd after, firstly, appearing to pull out of a tackle and then failing to chase a long pass.
After Ciaran Clark had missed a sitter in the first half, Perez struck for the winner 17 minutes from the finish, diverting Jacob Murphy's sublime cross past Jack Butland.
Stoke were finally sparked into action and Karl Darlow saved brilliantly from substitute Mame Diouf twice in the dying minutes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)