A LACK of killer instinct in front of goal proved to be Stoke City’s downfall once more on Saturday afternoon as Crystal Palace chalked up a fifth away victory of the campaign.
Chung Yong Lee’s stunning late thunderbolt claimed maximum spoils for the visitors after the hosts thought that their efforts had been rewarded when Bojan coolly struck home a 75th minute penalty.
The Spanish maestro made no mistake from the spot, identically to Eagles forward Connor Wickham, who had opened the scoring with a penalty of his own moments before the half-time interval.
Mark Hughes will be wondering what his side have to do to overcome their frailties in front of goal with several glorious opportunities once more going a begging throughout the proceedings.
But for the superb Wayne Hennessey in the visitors’ goal, City would have been ahead long before Wickham’s telling contribution.
The Wales number one produced several superb saves to deny the likes of Arnautovic whilst on the one occasion he was beaten during the opening period, he watched on as the post came to his rescue to thwart Marco van Ginkel.
Palace, to their credit, always looked menacing on the break with the powerful and pacey Yannick Bolasie proving problematic, as was Wilfried Zaha on the opposite flank.
The windy conditions were undoubtedly affecting the flow of the game somewhat as the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Arnautovic and Bojan initially struggled to find the momentum they displayed against Manchester City in their last home league outing.
Once they did manage to acclimatise then they looked by far the more creative outlet on show and it seemed only a matter of time until they were able to breach the Palace rearguard.
Bojan caught hold of a thumping effort from 25-yards that Hennessey did superbly well to palm away before Shaqiri, who enjoyed another impressive showing on the right, dragged an effort wide of the target from a tight angle.
Just as the half appeared set to end goalless Glenn Whelan made the slightest of contact with Zaha, but enough to trip over the forward, prompting referee Robert Madley to point straight at the penalty spot.
Summer signing Wickham, who had previously failed to net for his new side, hammered the ball straight down the middle to edge the visitors in front.
Stoke, clearly aggrieved to have fallen behind, came out for the second period intent on dragging themselves back into the encounter.
Ibrahim Afellay curled an effort just wide from distance as the home side upped the ante, whilst Arnautovic saw a deflected strike from just inside the ‘D’ clip off the foot of Scott Dann and fly inches past the post, with Hennessey beaten.
You sensed then that it may not be the Potters’ day, but when Bojan spurned a glorious opening midway through the half from 8-yards, you were fairly certain that Palace would be travelling home with three more away points in toe.
Hennessey continued to enhance his reputation in the Palace goal with another tremendous save to deny buccaneering right-back Glen Johnson, whose powerful left-footed strike appeared destined for the bottom corner.
With 15 minutes remaining the hosts were handed a reprieve.
A high bouncing ball in the Palace box caught the hand of the unfortunate Damian Delaney and referee Madley evened things up by awarding the home side a spot kick of their own, which was smartly fired home by Bojan.
From there on in it seemed there would only be one winner as Hughes troops pressed forward with Shaqiri and substitute Charlie Adam forcing several of the Eagles’ players to throw their bodies on the line and protect their goal.
Palace’s best opportunity of the half fell to Bolasie, who raced past Johnson out wide and then closed in on Butland, but found the England international in inspired form as he spread himself brilliantly to block the winger’s goal-bound effort.
As the minutes and seconds ticked down towards the climax of the entertaining encounter, disaster struck for the home side as South Korean midfielder Lee, who had only moments earlier been introduced into the action, let fly a rasping effort which flew into the far corner, leaving Jack Butland helpless.