City slip to defeat in final pre-season outing...
STOKE CITY succumbed to a 2-0 loss in their final pre-season friendly against German outfit FC St. Pauli on Saturday afternoon.
In a fairly even contest at the Millerntor-Stadion it was the Potters’ partner club who came out on top courtesy of second half strikes from Mats Daehli and Jan-Marc Schneider.
Gary Rowett’s side did have chances in either half to find the back of the net but were just unable to find a way past Robin Himmelmann and left Germany with their focus now firmly fixed on next weekend’s season opener against Leeds United.
The Potters started brightly in Hamburg and within six minutes Saido Berahino forced Himmelman into a smart save at his near post following a powerful drive from inside the area.
Both teams settled somewhat after that, trying to orchestrate patterns of play but just lacking that killer ball to open and break through each other’s defensive live.
The arrival of rain, coupled with spells of thunder and lighting, seemed to spark events on the pitch and Jack Butland had to be at his agile best just past the midway point of the opening period to tip away Marvin Knoll’s 18-yard effort with an outstretched right hand.
From that moment onwards the visitors started to gain a firm grip on proceedings and began to fashion a number of decent openings.
Summer signing James McClean was the first to try his luck, beating two men and firing a 20-yard effort that was heading towards the bottom corner but for the intervention of the keeper’s finger tips.
From the resulting corner Berahino thought he had given City the lead when he headed home unmarked but the referee blew for a foul in the build-up, before Ince then saw a free-kick pushed away.
Despite the Potters’ relative control it was the hosts who almost took the lead in the dying minutes of the first half when neat play allowed Daehli to race into the box, turn his marker and force Butland into a superb fingertip save from close range.
St Pauli picked up where they left off and created the first meaningful effort after the interval, forcing Butland to come to Bruno Martins Indi’s rescue when he was dispossessed by Sami Allagui on the edge of the area, allowing the striker to drill a low drive towards the corner which the England shot-stopper tipped away to safety.
The 25-year-old couldn’t do much about the goal which would open the scoring on the hour mark however when the ball was worked through to Daehli who fired home unmarked from close range.
The Potters almost fashioned an immediate response when McClean latched onto a pass out to the left wing, but Republic of Ireland international saw his effort from a tight angle blocked by the legs of Himmelmann.
The former West Bromwich Albion man was to be denied once again in the 67th minute when he collected Mame Diouf’s cross into the box before turning and hitting a close range shot which was expertly blocked by Luca Zander.
It was down the left hand side of the pitch that City went close once more shortly after, this time seeing Tom Edwards burst forward before the full back fired narrowly over the bar from distance.
The hosts were to have the final say however when 10 minutes from time they doubled their lead through Schneider, the forward manoeuvring himself in front of his marker to turn in a left wing cross.
Stoke City: Butland, Bauer, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Edwards, Fletcher (Adam 74), Ince (Choupo-Moting 74), Etebo, Allen (Crouch 74), McClean (Imbula 74), Berahino (Diouf 46). Subs: Haugaard, Federici, Tymon, Souttar, Sorensen, Cameron.