Bojan stars but Stoke squander two-goal lead vs. 10-man Leicester
Stoke threw away a two goal advantage and left the field with just one point following a frustrating 2-2 draw against 10-man Leicester. The early stages promised a nice, open game until Jamie Vardy saw red for an ill-advised attempt to win the ball back that was deemed to be a reckless two-footed lunge by referee Craig Pawson. It was a decision that prompted the visitors to lose all composure and professionalism leaving Pawson with little choice other than to hand out yellows like Christmas cards.
While the hosts took advantage of the disorder permeating the Foxes' ranks, their inability to secure a third goal kept Leicester in the game and Claudio Ranieri's changes from the bench soon led to palpable nervousness and indecision. As soon as Leonardo Ulloa pulled one back the script was written for a comeback by the champions which they predictably achieved.
The adaptability of the players to revert back to a 3-4-3 formation so seamlessly was pleasing, as was their in-game management once Vardy got his marching orders.
While the side's movement in possession was good it was largely done with the opposition in front of them and when it came to the final ball there didn't always seem to be a plan. The system prioritises wide play and crosses into the box but with just seven out of 40 finding their man it perhaps needs different players, or a tweak to the patterns of play, if it is to succeed longer term.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Mark Hughes made a number of changes and the decision to include Giannelli Imbula and Bojan Krkic were two of his better ones. On the flip side, his indecision from the bench remains a concern. Having seen his side struggle for a third and the space Erik Pieters was getting over on the left the opportunity to introduce Xherdan Shaqiri or Ramadan Sobhi was clear for all to see. Ultimately, Ranieri's substitutions earned his side an unlikely point whereas Hughes' lost his two.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Lee Grant, 7 -- Made a number of routine stops but arguably could have come out and punched the ball clear on the equaliser instead of hesitating and allowing Daniel Amartey an unopposed header on goal.
DF Glen Johnson, 7 -- Used his strength well and strode forward comfortably but his final ball was often lacking.
DF Ryan Shawcross, 6 -- Was struggling against the pace of Vardy but more from a mental than physical perspective. Won just half of the headers he contested.
DF Bruno Martins Indi, 7 -- Not known for his pace but more than matched a quick front line in one or two foot races. Showed good judgement by knowing exactly when to play and when to clear his lines.
MF Mame Diouf, 7 -- Silenced a number of his detractors with some deft touches on the ball and continues to put in an impressive shift out wide. Put in the cross of the match for Jon Walters.
MF Glenn Whelan, 7 -- Always available for a pass from the defence but for the most part was unambitious with his distribution. The side looked better for his inclusion at the start but he should have perhaps been one of those sacrificed when the side were searching for a third goal.
MF Giannelli Imbula, 8 -- Carried the ball forward well and consistently released Pieters over on the left. Linked well with Bojan around the final third.
MF Erik Pieters, 7 -- Saw plenty of the ball but didn't do enough with it. Despite being under very little pressure when crossing only two out of the 11 he attempted were successful.
FW Bojan Krkic, 9 -- Most of the side's meaningful, penetrative attacks came via the intelligence and quick feet of the Spaniard. At times he looks a different class and this was one of his better games.
FW Jon Walters, 8 -- Led the effort to stop the visitors playing long balls forward by relentlessly closing them down from the front. Forced Kasper Schmeichel to save well from two goal-bound attempts.
FW Joe Allen, 9 -- Popped up everywhere on the pitch, including in the box to tap in his latest goal of the season. Crucial to both defence and attack; misplacing just four passes all afternoon.
MF Charlie Adam, N/R -- Should have been introduced when the side were on the front foot, not defending a narrow lead. The right sub at the wrong time.
FW Ramadan Sobhi, N/R -- Brought on in injury time which was about half an hour too late to make any impact.
James Whittaker is ESPN FC's Stoke blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @northstokie