BOJAN’S stunning second half goal secured maximum points for Mark Hughes’ side against in form Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the Club’s 250th Premier League fixture.
The mesmerising Spaniard proved to be the difference between the two sides on a momentous day for the Potters – letting rip a sublime left foot strike that nestled in the bottom corner of the net, leaving Foxes stop Ben Hamer helpless.
The victory was no less that the Potters deserved having dictated the tempo of the game during the second 45 minutes, after neither side had been able to gain a real foothold on proceedings prior to the break.
The margin of victory could in fact have been greater had Marko Arnautovic managed to hit the inside of the net rather than the outside of it after being freed by the impressive Victor Moses, whilst Peter Crouch attempted an audacious effort in stoppage time that drifted agonisingly wide.
Hughes will take great satisfaction from the fact his side were able to avenge the undeserved defeat Leicester inflicted upon his side earlier in the season and bounce straight back from the 3-0 reverse against Arsenal six days earlier.
Prior to kick-off the Welshman was handed a huge blow with the news that influential skipper Ryan Shawcross failed a late fitness test on a groin injury he sustained in training 24 hours prior to kick off.
That meant a recall for Marc Wilson, who slotted in alongside recent acquisition Philipp Wollscheid at the heart of defence with Phil Bardsley and Marc Muniesa being given the nod to start in the full-back positions.
Crouch meanwhile dropped down to the bench to accommodate the fit again Victor Moses, with the on loan Chelsea forward lining up on the left hand side of midfield with Jon Walters deployed as the lone striker.
The hosts made four changes of their own as they looked to build upon a run of form that had seen embark upon a four match unbeaten run coming into this particular fixture. Three of those four games had ended in victory.
Stoke settled into the game far quicker than the hosts, retaining possession with relative ease and acclimatising themselves to the surroundings of the bowl like stadium in the East Midlands.
Whilst few opportunities were created early doors, you could sense the players growing in confidence and stature with each pass they completed during a hugely comfortable opening 15 minutes or so.
Moses curled an effort high and wide following a neat passage of play down the left midway through the half whilst Walters saw an effort superbly blocked by the imposing Polish defender Marcin Wasilewski, who was soon in the referees book for a late challenge on the Irish forward.
German international Wollscheid was looking like a top-flight campaigner as he enjoyed a superb afternoon at the heart of defence, displaying all the attributes that prompted Hughes to complete a deal for the Bayer Leverkusen star earlier in the month.
He used his positional sense and bravery to thwart the lively David Nugent inside the penalty area as the home side pushed forward for the first real time in the game, whilst his calmness on the ball proved invaluable when he found himself outnumbered inside his own penalty area.
It was at the other end of the field that he very nearly had the biggest influence however, rising highest to meet Moses inviting centre, but narrowly failing to hit the target, when had he done so it would certainly have troubled Hamer.
The second period was far more eventful than the first, with Hughes’ troops looking more like the side that brushed aside Arsenal in the Potteries last month rather than the one that was comfortably turned over by the same side in North London last week.
Moses trickery and superb weight of pass fed Arnautovic down the right just 60 seconds after the restart, but the Austrian ace sliced his effort into the side-netting from 10-yards, when he would have expected to have hit the target.
Wasilewski, who was starting his third successive game for the Foxes, was hugely fortunate not to have been dismissed five minutes later when he needlessly barged into Begovic – flattening the giant Bosnian in the process.
As expected Begovic, who looked calm and composed throughout the duration of the afternoon, dusted himself down and made a good save to deny Anthony Knockaert from an acute angle as the game reached the hour mark.
That brief spell of Leicester pressure soon came to an end and the visitors began to turn the screw in a bid to score the opening goal of the entertaining spectacle.
Steven Nzonzi hit a thunderous volley that looked destined for the net until Hamer raised an arm to block his effort, before Danny Drinkwater hacked the ball from danger with Walters waiting in the wings to tap home from close range.
Three minutes later it was advantage Stoke. Arnautovic delightfully flicked the ball through to Walters, the Irishman teed up Bojan, the Spaniard swivelled 18-yards out and drilled a sublime left foot strike into the far corner, sending the travelling 3,500 supporters into delirium.
Nigel Pearson made a trio of changes to his side in a bid to rejuvenate his struggling troops, but even the introduction of new £10 million signing Andrej Kramaric failed to spark the revival that the majority of fans inside the stadium were hoping for.
Hughes made a couple of changes of his own late on – Geoff Cameron replacing the tired Moses, and Crouch, who very nearly added a second deep into stoppage time, coming on at the expense of Arnautovic.