Nick Powell has now scored six goals in eight games this season – the last four in successive matchesNick Powell scored the only goal of the game as Stoke City beat previously unbeaten Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.
It looked like being one of those nights in the Potteries when Michael O’Neill’s men outplayed the visitors but could not find a way through.
Jacob Brown hit the post in the first half, then Mario Vrancic hit the bar in the second, before Sam Johnstone twice made great saves in quick succession from Sam Surridge, the second of them from the penalty spot after the Albion keeper had brought down the striker.
But on 79 minutes the Potters finally created one piece of real magic for their deserved winner on a night when Albion boss Val Ismael admitted that Stoke were the best side they have faced so far this season.
Tommy Smith latched on to a mis-hit pass from Conor Townsend to float a chipped ball through the inside-right channel – and Powell ran on to lift a perfectly weighted lob over the marooned Johnstone.
Stoke climb to third on the back of their best performance of the season in front of their biggest crowd of the season, 22,703, although that was swelled by the noisy 2,886 travelling Albion fans who made such an occasion of it.
The Potters eventually won it largely thanks to another superb performance from Powell, who, at 27, now looks to be a real class act compared to the teenage Crewe Alexandra hopeful who Manchester United risked £3m on more than nine years ago.
It was Powell who created Stoke’s first great chance when he put Brown clean through, only to see his team-mate outfox keeper Johnstone but also find the base of the post. Seconds later, fit-again Joe Allen fizzed a right-foot follow-up just wide.
Relive Stoke’s victory over West BromJacob Brown’s early miss was the first of two Stoke efforts against the woodworkAnd, although Albion’s Callum Robinson had a powerful left-foot volley straight at home keeper Adam Davies, he was also involved in an incident at the other end.
Stoke thought they had scored when Darnell Furlong, trying to clear the danger back to his keeper, arced a low diving header into the corner. But referee Tim Robinson had already blown his whistle for a supposed foul on Robinson, who appeared to have gone very easily to ground, earning a loud, sustained chorus of booing.
Summer signing Vrancic was next to go close after the break when he floated a left-foot free-kick over Johnstone, which bounced back off the bar.
From Powell’s low second-half cross, the Albion keeper then denied Surridge from close range – before there came an even better chance.
Semi Ajayi cleared a goal-bound shot almost from off the line and, in the melee that followed, Surridge was adjudged to have been brought down by Johnstone.
The Albion keeper dived to his right to save Surridge’s poorly struck penalty kick with his feet.
In between, Albion had gone close to snatching it themselves when captain Jake Livermore poked just wide in a late scramble triggered by one of Furlong’s long throws,
But it was Stoke who had the last laugh as Powell’s winner rubberstamped their promotion credentials, lifting them within a point of top spot going into the latest international break.
What’s next?By then Albion may have been overtaken by both Bournemouth, who are level on goal difference ahead of Saturday’s home game with Sheffield United, and also fourth-placed Fulham, who are two points off top spot going into the lunchtime away fixture with Coventry.
The Baggies are next in action in the local West Midlands derby at home to Birmingham City on Friday 15 October, while Stoke’s next game is the following day at Bramall Lane against the Blades.
Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill told BBC Radio Stoke:
“It’s a happy dressing room and we deserved to win but we may have made it harder work then necessary with all the missed chances.
“I felt we dealt with everything they threw at us. I didn’t feel were going to lose a goal. But Nick Powell pops up with that bit of quality again.
“The system we play suits Nick Powell. He’s very receptive and disciplined. When he plays like that there is a responsibility as a team to get the ball to him in those areas and he’ll always cause problems. And it was a great assist from Tommy Smith. He’s enjoying it at wing-back and is really offering us something in an attacking sense.
“We have to keep the fans coming back. Our home form has been excellent and at times the place was rocking. We have won five and drawn one here – and the fans are a big part of that.”
West Brom boss Val Ismael told BBC Radio WM:
“I don’t know if it was tiredness but we just weren’t good enough. We didn’t match the performance we put in against Cardiff. Stoke are the best team we have played so far and they deserved to win.
“We tried to play but we lost the ball. It’s as simple as that. After that you need to run after it. We made too many mistakes and we have to learn from it. We lost too many balls in the pocket.
“We did not create enough chances and did not keep the ball in the danger areas. We hesitated a lot in many areas. That is the reason why the performance was average.
“We need to give 100 per cent all the time. You see the quality in the Championship and we need to raise the quality. We need to recover and prepare for the next game against Birmingham. And Alex Mowatt has a foot injury that we have to check on.”
Player of the match
with an average of 7.73
Stoke CitySquad number25Player namePowell
Squad number8Player nameVrancic
Squad number36Player nameSouttar
Squad number9Player nameFletcher
Squad number16Player nameWilmot
Squad number4Player nameAllen
Squad number11Player nameDoughty
Squad number5Player nameChester
Squad number14Player nameTymon
Squad number2Player nameSmith
Squad number15Player nameThompson
Squad number18Player nameBrown
Squad number1Player nameDavies
Squad number22Player nameSurridge
West Bromwich AlbionSquad number1Player nameJohnstone
Squad number7Player nameRobinson
Squad number6Player nameAjayi
Squad number3Player nameTownsend
Squad number8Player nameLivermore
Squad number27Player nameMowatt
Squad number5Player nameBartley
Squad number2Player nameFurlong
Squad number10Player namePhillips
Squad number20Player nameReach
Squad number11Player nameDiangana
Squad number18Player nameGrant
Squad number17Player nameHugill
Squad number14Player nameMolumby
1DaviesBooked at 75mins16Wilmot36Souttar5Chester2Smith4Allen15Thompson14Tymon25PowellSubstituted forDoughtyat 86’minutes8VrancicSubstituted forFletcherat 76’minutes18BrownSubstituted forSurridgeat 57’minutesBooked at 90minsSubstitutes6Batth9Fletcher11Doughty12Bursik19Østigard22Surridge23InceWest BromFormation 3-4-3
1JohnstoneBooked at 90mins6Ajayi5Bartley3Townsend2Furlong8LivermoreBooked at 51mins27MowattSubstituted forMolumbyat 80’minutes20Reach7Robinson17HugillSubstituted forPhillipsat 55’minutes18GrantSubstituted forDianganaat 57’minutesSubstitutes10Phillips11Diangana14Molumby16Clarke21Kipré22Bryan25ButtonReferee:Tim Robinson
Live TextMatch ends, Stoke City 1, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Second Half ends, Stoke City 1, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion) is shown the yellow card.
Sam Surridge (Stoke City) is shown the yellow card.
Sam Surridge (Stoke City).
Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by James Chester.
Foul by Steven Fletcher (Stoke City).
Kyle Bartley (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sam Surridge (Stoke City).
Conor Townsend (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Stoke City. Alfie Doughty replaces Nick Powell because of an injury.
Foul by James Chester (Stoke City).
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Tommy Smith.
Attempt blocked. Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Grady Diangana.
Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. Jayson Molumby replaces Alex Mowatt.
Goal! Stoke City 1, West Bromwich Albion 0. Nick Powell (Stoke City) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Tommy Smith.
Foul by Joe Allen (Stoke City).
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