Saturday 17 March 2018

Xherdan Shaqiri puts team first after shunning personal plaudits

Xherdan Shaqiri, whose free-kick snatched a 1-1 draw for Stoke at Middlesbrough
Xherdan Shaqiri, whose free-kick snatched a 1-1 draw for Stoke at Middlesbrough

Xherdan Shaqiri would happily trade personal plaudits for Premier League points after bringing his rich vein of goalscoring form into the new season.

The Stoke schemer launched his campaign with a stunning free-kick to snatch a 1-1 draw at promoted Middlesbrough just weeks after lighting up the Euro 2016 finals with an acrobatic overhead strike for Switzerland against Poland.

However, for all the praise he has received as a result of his efforts, he insists it is the team which matters more.

Shaqiri told the club's official website, "For me, it is more important to help the team. Of course it's always nice to score for a player. But I feel fit, I feel very good and that's more important so I can help the team more.

"We are looking forward to the next games - we have a lot of games to play. It's a long season. I am pleased to help my team, really happy to help the team to this point. It was important for the first game.

"We'll take this point. Of course, we want to win every game, but a draw is a good start and we will keep going and look forward to the next games."

Stoke had to work hard to emerge from their trip to the Riverside Stadium with something to show for their efforts after Boro threatened to mark their return to the top flight with a victory.

It was they who took the lead with just 11 minutes played when debutant Alvaro Negredo bundled the ball home after Gaston Ramirez had headed Albert Adomah's cross back across goal.

Aitor Karanka's men could have been home and dry had the impressive Ramirez not been denied by both a post and the crossbar before the break, much to the relief of the Potters' 40-year-old goalkeeper Shay Given, deputising for the injured Jack Butland.

The England international missed out with an injury to the ankle he had broken on international duty in March, although manager Mark Hughes later revealed fears that the had suffered a recurrence had been allayed.

Stoke rallied as the game wore on, but it took them until 23 minutes from time to get themselves back on terms and it proved to be worth the wait.

Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic debated their respective claims to a free-kick 20 yards out, but it was the former who took charge, sending a swerving, dipping left-foot effort towards the bottom corner, where vastly-experienced Boro new boy Victor Valdes got a hand to the ball, but could not keep it out of his net.

The scorer said: "I was in a good mood, I felt very well so in the end, it was the right decision to shoot."

Karanka admitted his side might have won the game, but was adamant they could not be disappointed with the draw after embarking upon the steepest of learning curves.

He said: "It's the first step. We played well in the first 45 minutes and then in the second half, there were moments when the game was a little broken and we don't like to play in that way.

"For that reason, we have to keep working to be consistent on the pitch. We played a really good game, but we know we have to work every single day as we worked today, and this is the way.

"It's a season to learn, but we have to play and we are here because we deserve to be here. The crowd deserves to be here. It's six or seven years since the last game and I am more than pleased for them."

Press Association

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