Potters beat Trotters thanks to Spaniard's double...
STOKE CITY continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 win at Bolton Wanderers thanks to an inspired triple change by Mark Hughes which saw Joselu grab a brace after being setup by fellow subs Bojan and Mame Diouf.
Initially it looked as though it would be an afternoon of frustration for the Potters as Wanderers survived a first half onslaught; however it was the hosts who went in ahead when Adam Le Fondre’s spectacular lob gave the Trotters the lead.
But a late double from Joselu saw City claim their first win on British soil this pre-season with Bojan providing the crucial pass for the first, and hard work from Diouf for the all-important winner.
The Potters kicked off with a new look back three, with Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters operating as wing backs either side of Ryan Shawcross, Kurt Zouma and Geoff Cameron, the same setup they finished with on Tuesday.
It was City who came closest early on in Greater Manchester when Saido Berahino did well to intercept a stray pass, before setting up Xherdan Shaqiri, however, the Swiss playmaker’s shot came back off the post with Trotter’s ‘keeper Mark Howard stranded.
Bolton threatened a breakthrough of their own moments later as Mark Beevers’ headed effort drifted wide when under pressure from Zouma.
Stoke threatened once more just before the ten-minute mark when a good turn and shot from Berahino stung the palms of Howard, before Wanderers managed to clear the ball for a corner.
Howard was again called into action, this time denying Shaqiri as the Potters continued to hunt for an early lead.
In an entertaining opening to the game, City looked to be enjoying the freedom the new system was giving the front three with Shaqiri in particular opening the home backline on a number of occasions.
The Potters kept up the pressure when Berahino should have been celebrating his first City goal on British soil on 15 minutes, but he mishit the ball just five yards from goal.
Shaqiri continued to run the show creating another opportunity for Berahino, although he could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
There were muted appeals for a penalty on the half hour mark when a mazy run from Johnson was ended by Beevers but referee Jez Simpson waved away the full back's appeals.
The game then entered its first quiet spell, with neither side creating anything meaningful.
There was a scare for City as half time approached when Darren Pratley tested Butland from 20 yards, but the ‘keeper did well to hold onto the ball.
Bolton did find a breakthrough just two minutes before half time however, when a spectacular lob from Le Fondre found the net with Butland helpless. The diminutive forward had escaped Cameron for a brief moment, before chipping the ball in off the bar from the tightest of angles.
The Potters went in at the break behind when their play had warranted much, much more.
It was Bolton who began the sharper of the two sides at the start of the second half with the Potters seemingly still shocked by Le Fondre’s first half strike, although Shaqiri did have a seemingly goal bound shot blocked.
The compact Trotters defence was proving to be a real test early in the second period, but City did eventually begin to create openings.
Shaqiri came close again on 53 minutes when his brilliant free-kick from fully 25 yards crashed back off the crossbar.
Again, Shaqiri should have levelled the game just minutes later when he found himself in acres of space in the Bolton box, but his goalbound effort was well blocked by Beevers and the Wanderers goal remained intact.
The Potters were still searching for the equaliser after the hour mark, and next it was Zouma to test the Trotters goal. The on-loan defender let fly with a viscous right footed effort from fully 25 yards with only the fingertips of Howard dening him.
Berahino continued his personal battle with the Bolton ‘keeper moments later with Howard again saving comfortably in what was to be his last action of the match as Hughes turned to his bench with Berahino, along with Johnson and Ramadan replaced by Diouf, Joselu and Bojan.
And the latter was within inches of getting on the scoresheet just two minutes later when he just couldn’t quite get enough contact on a brilliant pass from Shaqiri.
By now the home side were very much playing on the counter, seemingly content with their afternoon’s work, although substitute Adam Armstrong was within inches of testing Butland.
However, the Potters did eventually score a goal their play deserved on 77 minutes through Joselu. Bojan did brilliantly to find some space before finding his fellow Spaniard who finished off the move with his effort going in off the post.
Bolton looked to retake the lead again as the game entered its final stages when Armstrong was denied superbly by Butland at point blank range.
The City comeback was complete just three minutes from time when Joselu struck his second. Diouf did well down the right before finding the Spaniard in acres of space to tap home.
City saw out the game with relative ease to claim their first win on British soil this pre-season, ahead of the trip to St Pauli on Tuesday night.
The Potters end their pre-season programme next weekend when they visit Bundesliga runners up RB Leipzig.
Stoke City: Butland, Johnson (Diouf, 66), Shawcross (C), Zouma, Pieters, Cameron, Allen, Fletcher, Shaqiri, Ramadan (Bojan, 66), Berahino (Joselu, 66). Unused subs: Grant, Sweeney, Souttar