STOKE CITY 1 (Bojan 68)
A STRONG Stoke City outfit had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers on Sunday afternoon as they edge closer to the start of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season.
Gary Bowyer's side provided the Potters with a stern run out in Lancashire with former Barcelona forward Bojan grabbing his second goal in as many pre-season games to cancel out Jordan Rhodes' first half header.
The game follows Saturday's goalless draw against Burton Albion and now leaves City with two remaining friendlies against Real Betis and Freiburg before the big kick-off against Aston Villa on Saturday, August 16th.
Mark Hughes named a strong starting line-up against his former employers with new arrivals Phil Bardsley and Mame Biram Diouf both appearing at Ewood Park alongside the likes of Asmir Begovic, Ryan Shawcross and midfielder Charlie Adam.
Despite City fielding an experienced side it was the hosts who created the game's first opportunity when Adam was dispossessed deep inside his own half by Tom Cairney but the former Hull City midfielder was unable to make the Scot pay as his attempted chip over Begovic went well wide from 30 yards.
The Potters gradually found their feet though against a team who kick-off their season next Friday and should have really taken the lead on two separate occasions just before the 15 minute mark.
Firstly, Peter Crouch headed just wide of the near post following a delightful in-swinging cross from former Sunderland man Bardsley, before good interchange between Crouch and Diouf setup Jonathan Walters who fired over when well placed inside the area.
Stoke's dominance continued to the delight of the travelling City faithful as they saw both Marko Arnautovic and Diouf fire efforts towards goal after fine approach play, before giving a rousing reception to new arrival Bojan Krkic as he warmed-up for the first time on the touchline.
Although the Potters retained relative control on proceedings their superiority was undone seven minutes before the break when Rhodes popped up with a trademark effort as he headed in Craig Conway's deep right-wing cross from close range to leave Begovic with little chance.
It proved to be the last meaningful action of the half and Hughes made a flurry of substitutions at the break with Thomas Sorensen, Stephen Ireland, and Bojan replacing Beogvic, Arnautovic and Crouch respectively as the Welshman looked to give more game time to his squad.
The arrivals from the bench spurred City into a bright start to the second period as Walters looped a near post header from an Adam corner just over, whilst the latter had a good opportunity from just outside the box but he fired over following neat footwork from Bojan.
City's Scottish midfielder slowly started to influence the game and the 28-year-old looked on when another chance went begging as Ireland glanced a header just wide of the far post following a superb ball into the box.
The Potters did however finally make their sustained pressure pay just past the midway point of the second half when Steven Nzonzi laid the ball into the path of Bojan who drilled a 25-yard effort into Paul Robinson's bottom left-hand corner to send almost 800 travelling supporters into raptures.
City's equaliser opened the game up with Cairney and veteran midfielder David Dunn firing 20-yard free-kicks into the wall, whilst down at the other end Erik Pieters and Walters saw powerful efforts blocked before Diouf couldn't quite angle his header towards goal following a rasping cross into the box from Bojan.
The Potters could have claimed a winner inside the dying moments but Robinson acrobatically turned away a close range effort from Robert Huth after a cute pull back from Diouf.
STOKE CITY: Begovic (Sorensen 45); Bardsley, Shawcross (Wilson 63), Huth, Muniesa (Pieters 74); Arnautovic (Ireland 45), Nzonzi, Adam (Whelan 63), Walters; Diouf, Crouch (Bojan 45). Unused: Ward.