Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay and Peter Crouch on target in pre-season triumph...
STOKE CITY 3 (Bojan 3, Afellay 5, Crouch 61)
STOKE CITY stepped up their preparations for the new season as they ran out comfortable winners over Walsall in the side’s first public friendly of the summer.
Superbly taken efforts from former Barcelona pair Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay had the visitors well in the ascendancy after just five minutes, whilst Peter Crouch added gloss to the scoreline with a well-taken goal of his own after the break.
Whilst Gary Rowett has previously played down the importance of results, he can’t help but have been impressed by the clinical edge his men displayed against the League One side at the Bescott Stadium.
Bojan’s thumping strike from 25-yards in the third minute set the tone for a very productive afternoon’s work as the side built upon the 5-2 behind-closed-doors triumph over Macclesfield Town earlier in the week.
The travelling army of supporters, all 970 of them, hadn’t even finished chanting Bojan’s name by the time they were called into duty once more - this time celebrating Afellay’s equally as impressive strike from just outside the ‘D’.
In terms of a contest it was always going to be difficult for Dean Keates side to fight their way back into the game, but they huffed and puffed and forced debutant Adam Federici into one or two relatively routine saves.
It was at the opposite end of the pitch that the vast majority of the action was taking place however, with Bojan instrumental in most positive passages of play, whilst Charlie Adam and Joe Allen were both doing their best to breach the Saddlers backline for a third time.
Rowett had previously confirmed that he would utilise the encounter to get valuable minutes into the legs of as many players as possible, and it came as no surprise when he made 10 changes during the interval.
The only player to retain his spot in the side was young midfielder Lasse Sorensen, who replaced Afellay on the 30-minute marker, with the Dutch international having been taken off as a precautionary measure after appearing to have felt a slight strain.
Whilst Walsall started the second period brighter it didn’t take long until the visitors regained a foothold on proceedings with the likes of Darren Fletcher and the talented Sorensen beginning to dominate midfield.
An incisive break down the left on the hour mark culminated in the first real meaningful work of the half, and it resulted in a third goal of the game as Erik Pieters burst down the touchline and pulled a delicious ball across to Crouch, who made no mistake from close range.
The former England man very nearly had a second soon after when Pieters teased another delivery into the danger zone, only for Kory Roberts to glance the ball away from the path of Crouch, who looked primed to make it four.
Sadly, that proved to be Roberts’ final involvement of the afternoon as he sustained what appeared to have been a broken ankle after landing awkwardly following well-contested 50/50 with City’s young defender Ryan Sweeney.
Julien Ngoy, who enjoyed a loan spell with the hosts last season, could have got his name on the scoresheet on a couple of occasions, having driven a strike just wide of target before opting to try and square the ball across the six-yard box rather than going for goal himself during the latter stages.
Stoke City (First-Half): Federici; Bauer, Souttar, Martins Indi, Tymon; Adam, Allen; Bojan, Berahino, Afellay (Sorensen 30); Afobe.
Stoke City (Second-Half): Haugaard; Edwards, Shawcross (c), Sweeney, Pieters; Fletcher, Sorensen (Verlinden 70); Ngoy, Imbula, Choupo-Moting; Crouch.