STOKE CITY’S disappointing start to the 2016/17 Premier League campaign was prolonged on Sunday afternoon as Crystal Palace inflicted a fourth straight defeat upon Mark Hughes’ side.
The Potters, who went into the game on the back of a 4-0 home reverse against Tottenham Hotspur eight days earlier, started the game brightly but were cruelly undone by an unfortunate own goal from Jonathan Walters in the 10th minute.
His, and the rest of the side’s, agony was prolonged 90 seconds later when Scott Dann rose unchallenged 10-yards out and planted a firm header into the back of the net, leaving Shay Given helpless.
James McArthur rubbed further salt into the City wounds 20 minutes from time, with a powerful strike that deflected into the back of the net via Geoff Cameron, before Andros Towsend exquisitely added gloss to the scoreline late on.
There was something for the travelling army of supporters to finally celebrate however, as Marko Arnautovic grabbed a stoppage time consolation for his side with a curling effort that beat French international Steve Mandanda.
Whilst there will still be several positives for Hughes to take away from the game, the fact that his side hsipped four goals for a third time in five matches this season will be of huge concern to the Welshman.
Stoke City conceded the first goal of the game for the fifth time in five top-flight matches this season.
Mark Hughes often highlights the importance of netting the opening goal in press conferences, and his side’s slow start at Selhurst Park will have undoubtedly infuriated him.
Once more it proved to be the Potters’ undoing as just a minute after Jonathan Walters’ own goal, Scott Dann doubled the Eagles’ advantage from another superb set-piece delivery.
From that moment onwards, it was always going to be a monumental task for the visitors to get back into the encounter - especially with Palace boasting such an impressive defensive record.
Not once this term have they conceded a goal from open play, and in truth rarely did that record look like being broken on Sunday.
Still, on a positive note, it took City seven fixtures to chalk up their first victory last season, yet thy still went on to achieve a joint-record ninth place Premier League finish.
Let’s hope history repeats itself this time round - although, wouldn’t it be nice to get those elusive three points on matchday six, against West Bromwich Albion.