Peter Crouch heads home to earn Stoke a point

West Brom manager Tony Pullis takes abuse from his former team’s fans

Stoke City’s Peter Crouch scores their equaliser at the Hawthorns. Photograph:  Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Stoke City’s Peter Crouch scores their equaliser at the Hawthorns. Photograph: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

 

West Brom 1 Stoke City 1

In a game full of sub-plots there was not much of a story in the end as West Bromwich Albion’s hopes of taking maximum points from their opening three top-flight fixtures for only the third time in their history were extinguished by the evergreen Peter Crouch.

Leading through Jay Rodriguez’s first Premier League goal for the club since his £12m summer move from Southampton, Albion allowed victory to slip through their fingers when Ahmed Hegazi’s mistake was punished by Crouch.

It was Premier League goal number 104 for Crouch, who had not long come off the substitutes’ bench, and the 36-year-old will not have scored many easier. Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes, who have not always been on the best of terms, shook hands at the final whistle and, in truth, neither manager can have any complaints about the outcome. Although Albion will rue the manner in which they conceded their first goal of the season, Stoke finished stronger and looked the more likely side to pinch a winner.

To say the game was a slow burner would be a understatement. There was one incident of note in the opening 45 minutes, when Kurt Zouma cut inside and struck a 25-yard left-footed shot that took a deflection off Gareth Barry and looked to be looping over the head of Ben Foster until the West Brom goalkeeper, stretching every sinew, flicked the ball over the bar with his fingertips. Otherwise it was a snooze-fest, desperately dull and so quiet at times that the instructions being barked from the touchline were the only voices that could be heard.

With so little entertainment on offer, Stoke’s supporters saw it as an opportunity to turn on their former manager by chanting: “Tony Pulis, your football is shit”. Pulis is not everyone’s cup of tea and it is fair to say that free-flowing expansive football has never been his thing, yet it still seemed strange to hear the Welshman subjected to that sort of criticism by fans of a club where he won promotion to the Premier League and spent seven years in charge.

Either way it was Pulis who was smiling early in the second half. Allan Nyom broke down the right and delivered a fine cross that ran through to the far post, where Rodriguez reacted much quicker than Zouma and Geoff Cameron, who were caught on their heels. Stooping to meet the ball with a diving header from about six yards out, Rodriguez beat Jack Butland and finally there was a breakthrough.

Albion, however, were unable to hold on to their lead for long. Hughes introduced Ramadan Sobhi to give some fresh impetus to a toothless attack and those two players combined, via some calamitous Albion defending, to bring parity. Sobhi’s cross with the outside of his boot appeared harmless enough but Hegazi, who had scored on his debut in the previous home game, got in a terrible tangle as he tried to volley clear. The Egyptian made only slight contact with the ball, taking it away from Foster, who had come off his line to gather, and leaving Crouch with the simple task of nodding home.

(Guardian service)

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