Wednesday 17 October 2018

Diouf's costly miss sums up dire situation for Stoke

Stoke City 1-1 Burnley

Stoke City manager Paul Lambert
Stoke City manager Paul Lambert

John Percy

To paraphrase Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder character, Stoke City are in a stickier situation than when Sticky the Stick Insect got stuck on a sticky bun.

This was billed as a game Stoke had to win, but Paul Lambert's survival mission appears increasingly forlorn after an 11th Premier League game without a victory.

Burnley's Ashley Barnes (right) scores his side's only goal of the game. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Burnley's Ashley Barnes (right) scores his side's only goal of the game. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

They were spirited and resilient, taking the lead through Badou Ndiaye, yet ultimately lacked the attacking threat to drag them closer to safety, epitomised by the travails of Mame Diouf up front.

Diouf, and perhaps Stoke, never recovered from a dreadful miss late in the first half.

Ashley Barnes's equaliser, his sixth goal in eight games, will maintain dreams of European excursions for Burnley next season, while Stoke must fear a one-way ticket to the Championship. Lambert's team are four points adrift with three games left, one of which is at Champions League semi-finalists Liverpool on Saturday.

Mathematically Lambert said: "Until somebody tells us that mathematically we can't do it, then we never give up and that's important for the club. As a team and as supporters we never give in. We have to go and win at Liverpool, it's as simple as that.

Burnley's James Tarkowski in action with Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross Photo: REUTERS/Peter Powell
Burnley's James Tarkowski in action with Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross Photo: REUTERS/Peter Powell

"Scoring goals has been an issue and the conceding-goals column doesn't make great reading either. When you have those two at either end it makes things difficult."

This was undoubtedly a "must-win", and Stoke were ahead in the 11th minute thanks to a well-worked goal from Ndiaye.

After Joe Allen's cross was only half-cleared, the £15 million January signing from Galatasaray was given the ball outside the penalty area by Diouf and turned to strike a fine shot into the bottom corner. It was only their 32nd goal in the league this season, a damning statistic.

Stoke should have added a second goal three minutes before half-time but the unmarked Diouf, not renowned for his strike rate, somehow failed to connect with Moritz Bauer's cross. It felt like a crucial moment, and so it proved.

Burnley were a vastly improved team after the restart, with Jack Butland tipping over a Jack Cork header in the 54th minute, and then saving brilliantly from James Tarkowski 30 seconds later.

An equaliser had a whiff of inevitability about it and finally came in the 64th minute, despite some more Butland heroics.

Tarkowski was denied again at close range by the Stoke goalkeeper but Barnes was alert to force home the loose ball with his knee. Stoke did almost steal it at the end, when sub Stephen Ireland struck a post.

Telegraph.co.uk

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport