Last gasp goal inflicts defeat upon Mark Hughes' men in South Yorkshire...
KURT ZOUMA was handed his Stoke City debut on Tuesday evening as the Potters continued their preparations for the forthcoming 2017/18 campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat against Sheffield United.
The French international defender, who arrived at the bet365 Stadium on a season-long loan last Friday, came through 45 minutes of what proved to be an entertaining and testing encounter at Bramall Lane.
Billy Sharp capitalised on an uncharacteristic mistake from Ryan Shawcross in the ninth minute to rifle the Championship new boys ahead, before Xherdan Shaqiri showed real class to level matters shortly before the interval.
However, the final word went to the emerging youngster David Brooks, who sealed an undeserved victory for the home side with virtually the last kick of the evening after flicking the ball into the roof of the net following a good move down the right.
From Stoke’s perspective, Hughes will pinpoint Shaqiri’s influence up top as a major positive to take away from the match with the Swiss star receiving a standing ovation from both sets of supporters after maintaining his impressive run of form in South Yorkshire.
The only frustration for him will have been the fact that he wasn’t able to celebrate more than one goal having seen an earlier effort flick the top of the bar before the unknowing Saido Berahino blocked his goal-bound strike just moments before his second half withdrawal.
The Potters far from had it their own way during the 90 minutes however, with the Blades dominating the early exchanges - but without showing the cutting edge needed to have put the visitors to the sword.
In truth they should have had more than a one goal advantage by the time Shaqiri exquisitely linked up with Ramadan to draw the match level right on the stroke of half-time.
The second 45 minutes proved equally as entertaining as both sides played some neat football, although clear-cut opportunities were relatively few and far between.
Mark Hughes’ men edged the second half though and twice went close to taking the lead during the opening 15 minutes.
The lively Berahino hammered a thunderous effort inches wide of the post following some neat footwork on the edge of the box, before Ryan Shawcross failed to make contact with Peter Crouch’s intelligent knockdown inside the danger zone.
At the other end Lee Grant gathered Samir Carruthers’ long-distance strike with relative ease, just moments before substitute Bojan thought he had netted a third goal of the night, only to see his strike flick off a Blades defender and clip the far post.
Late changes from both managers stagnated the match somewhat, although substitute Mame Diouf tried to net his third goal in as many matches from distance, only for his half volley to fly over the bar.
With just seconds of the match remaining the home side claimed victory courtesy of 20-year-old midfielder Brooks, who caught the attention of several of Europe’s top clubs during the summer after starring for England at the Toulon Tournament.
Despite the result Hughes will take plenty of positives from the 90 minute work-out and look ahead to this weekend’s friendly with Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium.