Stoke City beat Norwich City 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League on Wednesday night.
Gary O’Neil saw an early red for a terrible two-footed tackle and Jonny Howson scored a stunner for the visitors, but strikes from Jonathan Walters and Joselu, along with an own goal from Ryan Bennett, gave the home side the win.
Both sides made significant changes from the sides that played in the FA Cup last weekend. Jack Butland, Marko Arnautovic, and Bojan all returned for the hosts, while Declan Rudd, Robbie Brady, and Wes Hoolahan came back into the starting eleven for the visitors. The biggest omission was the in-form Xherdan Shaqiri, who missed out after picking up a hamstring strain in training yesterday.
Stoke were very slow out of the blocks, struggling to put more than two passes together in the opening ten minutes.
The first chance did fall Stoke’s way, however, as Joselu flicked the ball over the Norwich defence and into the path of Arnautovic, but Declan Rudd tipped his tame effort wide of the post.
Norwich enjoyed the majority of the possession, but Stoke had more chances in front of goal. Norwich’s first shot didn’t come until mid-way through the first half, as Jonny Howson’s powerful long range drive flew over the bar.
The biggest incident of the opening 45 minutes arrived on the half hour mark as Gary O’Neil was shown a straight red card for a dangerous and rash lunge on Ibrahim Afellay.
There was no danger as the Dutchman shepherded the ball out of the play on the touchline, but O’Neil came crashing in from behind with a two-footed scissor kick, giving Neil Swarbrick no choice but to reach for the red.
Despite their one-man advantage, Stoke couldn’t find a way through in the remaining 15 minutes of the half, and the game ended 0-0 at the break.
Stoke got their breakthrough just three minutes into the second half.
Arnautovic was the provider, sending in a beautiful cross that was impossible for Rudd to collect or the defence to deal with – and Jonathan Walters was on hand to slide the ball home at the back post.
Less than five minutes later, Norwich struck back through a Jonny Howson stunner.
Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe chested Wes Hoolahan’s cross straight into the path of the 27-year-old, and he unleashed an unstoppable half volley straight into the roof of the Stoke goal. It was a potential goal of the season contender.
Despite battling valiantly, Norwich found themselves behind for a second time after 68 minutes. Sebastien Bassong’s headed clearance landed at the feet of Ibrahim Afellay – he laid it off for Joselu, and his shot went through the legs of Ryan Bennett and into the bottom corner.
The game was over as a contest in the 79th minute when Ryan Bennett headed in an own goal to make it 3-1 to Stoke.
Peter Crouch almost added a late fourth, but the game ultimately ended with no further goals.
The result moves Stoke up to seventh place with 32 points, three points behind West Ham in the race for a Europa League place. Norwich stay 15th, five points clear of the drop zone.
Next up for Stoke is a home game against Arsenal on Sunday followed by a trip to Leicester the following weekend. Norwich travel to Bournemouth at the weekend then host Liverpool on Saturday 23rd.
Stoke: Butland 7, Johnson 7, Shawcross 7.5, Wollscheid 6.5, Pieters 7, Whelan 6, Afellay 7.5, Joselu 8, Walters 8, Arnautovic 8.5, Bojan 7. Subs: Odemwingie 7, van Ginkel 7, Crouch 6.5.
Norwich: Rudd 6.5, Martin 6, Bennett 6, Bassong 6, Brady 6.5, Howson 8, Tettey 6.5, O’Neil 0.5, Hoolahan 7, Odjidja-Ofoe 7, Mbokani 6. Subs: Jerome 6.5, Jarvis 6, Redmond 6.