DANNY INGS’ first half brace was enough to secure Burnley a second successive Premier League victory and inflict a third home defeat of the season upon the Potters on Saturday afternoon.
The highly rated striker tapped home his fourth goal of the campaign after twelve minutes before adding a fifth barely 60 seconds later after being picked out inside the 6-yard box by former Stoke winger Michael Kightly.
Mark Hughes’ side huffed and puffed in a bid to drag themselves back into the encounter and they finally managed to half the deficit thanks to Jonathan Walters superbly taken header shortly before the interval.
A second half siege on the Clarets’ 18-yard area failed to reap the rewards it arguably deserved as substitute Peter Crouch and Steve Sidwell both went agonisingly close to levelling matters for the dominant hosts.
Prior to kick-off Mark Hughes was forced into making two changes to his starting eleven as both Erik Pieters and Marc Wilson failed late fitness tests.
The pair were rated as doubtful to feature by the Welshman during Friday’s pre-match press conference having sustained injuries during the 2-1 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur two weeks earlier.
However, despite progressing in their bids to make the matchday squad, they were subsequently ruled out of action meaning Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa returned to the starting eleven at their expense.
American international Cameron came in to central defence alongside skipper Ryan Shawcross, whilst Spanish starlet Muniesa replaced Pieters at left back.
Buoyed by a tremendous victory over Spurs two weeks earlier the Potters came into the encounter in confident mood against the Clarets, who only recorded their first league win of the term against Hull City prior to the international break.
The Potters displayed swag and confidence during the opening minutes with Bojan in-particular shining with his array of talents and ever-growing confidence.
It wasn’t just the former Barcelona man who looked eager to impress however with the rest of his teammates pressing Burnley back into their own half, working tremendously hard to force the visitors into making an error.
An error did come twelve minutes in … and it did prove to be costly! Sadly, that error occurred in the Potters’ half of the pitch and it culminated in Ings stunning the majority of supporters inside the Britannia Stadium.
Muniesa will feel aggrieved not to have done better when he was in possession of the ball on the right touchline – taking his time over the ball before seeing his attempted clearance fall into the path of Ashley Barnes.
The forward cleverly switched play out to Kightly on the left hand side, he took one touch and fired the ball across the 6-yard box, Asmir Begovic palmed it clear, but straight into the path of Ings, who tucked home the easiest goal of his career so far.
The goal certainly wasn’t in the script – not the one Mark Hughes had planned anyhow! Neither was what transpired a minute later, as an almost identical passage of play saw Kightly pick out the unmarked Ings, and he doubled the visitors lead and sent their travelling supporters into absolute delirium.
The home side had an almighty mountain to climb if they were going to turn the game around and build upon the solid foundations they set down in the capital prior to last weekend’s round of international fixtures.
To their credit the home fans stuck with their team, raising the decibel levels with each and every surge forward. Credit to the Clarets rear-guard though because for every question posed to them by Hughes’ desperate side, they appeared to have had an answer.
That was until Bojan produced a moment of individual brilliance ten minutes before the interval. The Spanish international controlled Kightly’s clearance with audacious ease, swivelled and delivered an inch-perfect ball to Walters, who powered the ball into the net despite the best attempts of Tom Heaton to keep it out.
Sensing blood, Moses then danced his way into the box but saw his attempted delivery to Mame Diouf narrowly ease the stretched out Senegalese striker, whilst Moses himself went close with a rasping effort that was thwarted by Heaton at his near post.
The start of the second half continued from where the first had ended; with Stoke pressing forward at every opportunity in a bid to peg back Sean Dyche’s dogged and determined side.
Moses was unfortunately withdrawn soon after the restart after appearing to have felt his hamstring – with maverick Marko Arnautovic the player brought on as his replacement. An opportunity for the Austrian to stake a claim for a return to the starting eleven.
His intelligence on the ball was welcome on the left flank, but sadly, after displaying an incredible first touch, his strike let him down when he had burst past Michael Duff to forge an opening for himself. The winger’s effort flew harmlessly wide.
The architect of most positive passages of play, Bojan produced another outrageous ball on the hour mark – flighting a powerful delivery straight on to the head of Diouf, but with the ‘keeper beaten his effort dropped inches wide of the post.
The Spaniard himself tried his luck from range moments later but saw his effort blocked by Jason Shackell, before Steven Nzonzi sliced an effort upwards from 15-yards after Walters had squared the ball into his path.
Hughes introduced Crouch from the bench in a bid to add a new dimension to his side’s play, with Diouf the player departing to make way.
Crouch very nearly made an immediate impact as Phil Bardsley’s angled ball was chested down inside the area by the former England ace, but Shackell again cleared the danger just as Sidwell looked set to strike.
Sidwell himself saw a thunderous effort blocked by the brave Kieran Trippier 20 minutes from time. You almost sensed that it wasn’t to be Stoke’s day at that point.
But rather than discredit the visitors you have to praise them for their resilience and determination to hold on to the lead and claim a first away triumph of the season, against a side who prior to the current campaign had lost just four times on home turf under Hughes.
A rare surge forward from Burnley saw substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz force Begovic into a smart save down to his right, before his counterpart Heaton watched on with baited breath at the other end as Crouch glanced Bojan’s ball narrowly wide of the target, with Sidwell doing his utmost at the far post to try turn the ball home.
Charlie Adam added a little bit more urgency to the side after being introduced late on, yet despite the efforts of him and the rest of the side, Begovic included, having headed over a late corner, Dyche’s men held firm to claim the scalp of the Potters hot on the heels of their victory over Hull.