West Bromwich Albion 1 (Morrison, 6)
Stoke City 0
- James Morrison strike inflicts first league defeat of 2017 upon the Potters.
- Shawcross rattled the woodwork whilst Allen and Pieters went close to equalising.
- Berahino featured from the bench on his Hawthorns return.
STOKE CITY fell to their first league defeat in 2017 at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon as James Morrison’s early effort claimed the hosts all three points.
Mark Hughes’ side went into the encounter on the back of a four game unbeaten run since the turn of the year but fell victim to the Baggies, who cemented their spot in the top eight of the table.
A sloppy opening to the encounter proved to be the visitors’ downfall as Scotland international Morrison was allowed too much time and space in behind to free himself of Bruno Martins Indi and sweep the ball beyond the stretching Lee Grant.
The Potters were thankful to the former Derby stopper for keeping the scoreline down to one, saving well to deny Solomon Rondon and Matty Phillips as the hosts looked to turn the screw.
However, the visitors gradually began to gain some confidence and went agonisingly close to levelling matters when Ryan Shawcross’ goal-bound header flicked off the unknowing Gareth McAuley and rattled the woodwork.
Moments later an outstanding centre by Erik Pieters picked out the unmarked Joe Allen, who with the goal at his mercy, headed straight down the throat of the thankful Baggies stopper Ben Foster.
Whilst the visitors were largely dictating the tempo of the game it was Tony Pulis’ side who had more of a threatening look about them, especially on the break, with Phillips and Nacer Chadli constant nuisances out wide.
Hughes needed to shake things up to offer a more consistent threat after the interval and he certainly displayed his boldness by thrusting Mame Diouf, who returned back from international action on Wednesday, and former Albion ace Saido Berahino on to the field.
Their introductions, along with that of Academy graduate Julien Ngoy, gave the Potters a far more dynamic outlook to them, and with their presence, more spaces began to appear within the usually rugged Baggies backline.
Marko Arnautovic failed to make the most of an opportunity on the left after being fed through by Pieters whilst Ngoy saw a powerful effort diverted off target by Allan Nyom, with the young Belgian ace preparing to turn and celebrate what would have been a memorable equaliser.
At the other end of the field Grant was forced into an outstanding save to deny substitute James McClean, after his curling long-range strike appeared destined to nestle in the back of the net.
Stoke continued to dominate possession though and should have reaped their rewards when Dutch international Pieters leaped highest to meet a tremendous ball into the box, but frustratingly headed wide.
The Potters huffed and puffed throughout the five minutes of additional time, but it proved in vein as Albion clung on to secure maximum spoils.