This article titled “Charlie Adam squanders late penalty in Stoke’s dramatic draw with Brighton” was written by Paul MacInnes at the Bet365 Stadium, for The Observer on Saturday 10th February 2018 17.18 UTC
A contender for most frenetic finale of the Premier League season saw Stoke have a penalty saved, another denied and a chance cleared off the line as the clock hit 90 minutes. However exciting the conclusion, however, the fact remains the hosts are in real relegation trouble.
Insipid and incoherent in a first half during which Brighton took the lead with a crisp team goal, Stoke rallied in the second but had to rely once again on a moment of individual skill from Xherdan Shaqiri to draw level.
Then, as the game reached the 88th minute, Dale Stephens tussled with Jesé in the box and Bobby Madley pointed to the spot. Charlie Adam’s effort was well saved by Mat Ryan though and, as the Scot waited to tap in the rebound, he was robbed by a sliding challenge from Lewis Dunk. Seconds later a goalbound header from Mame Biram Diouf was turned away by the diminutive Anthony Knockaert. You could practically hear the hair being torn from the heads of the crowd.
“I’m desperately disappointed‚“ said Paul Lambert. “When you get a penalty in the last minute it’s a big opportunity to win the game. But we win as a team and we lose as a team. I think in the second half we were well on top. Xherdan scored a great goal but in the second half we were much better.”
For Chris Hughton there was also frustration. His side controlled the first half with a tactical plan that nullified Stoke and offered real penetration on the counterattack. Their goal came from a prolonged spell of possession with Izquierdo playing one-twos with Solly March and Dale Stephens before firing low under Jack Butland for his second goal in as many matches.
Izquierdo also had a sight of goal the second minute only to blaze over, and nearly flummoxed Butland with a piledriver with five minutes remaining. Davy Pröpper also should have scored but saw his low first-time effort turned wide by the England keeper.
“On balance we had the better chances,” Hughton said. “I thought the goal was excellent, a great team goal. I thought we were good, particularly on the counter, and we had the better opportunities over the 90 to score.”
For Stoke there was solace to be taken from their persistence in adversity, something that hasn’t always been apparent this season. There was also the return of Jesé to encourage the fans; the Spaniard constantly pushed the Brighton defence backwards, which was crucial in creating space for Shaqiri to turn the ball inside Ryan’s right-hand post to equalise.
But only one of these two teams looked like a side at ease with their status in the Premier League and that was the visitors. Yet the pair remain separated by just three points in a ridiculously congested league table.
“I think we have felt comfortable in this division, but we don’t want to feel too comfortable,” Hughton said. “It’s going to be very tough between now and the end of the season for a lot of teams.”
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