Stoke City came from behind to draw 1-1 with Huddersfield in the Premier League on Boxing Day and further ease the pressure on manager Mark Hughes.
Hughes had appeared to be fighting to avoid the sack before the Potters registered a 3-1 win over fellow strugglers West Brom last time out.
And a point away to David Wagner’s impressive side, earned by Ramadan Sobhi’s second-half equaliser, may earn the embattled boss more time ahead of a tough encounter away to his former side, reigning champions Chelsea, on Saturday.
Huddersfield led through Tom Ince’s first goal for the club in the 10th minute, but Jonas Lossl’s stunning save from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting amid an incredible first-half goal scramble may leave them happier to accept a second 1-1 draw in succession.
The Terriers will at least be satisfied to find themselves in the comfort of mid-table, with a demanding fixture at home to high-flying Burnley coming up this weekend.
Huddersfield took the lead in the 10th minute, when Collin Quaner made a surging run up the right flank, exchanged passes with overlapping fullback Tommy Smith and held off Geoff Cameron’s challenge with possession intact, before laying it off for Ince to stroke home via a touch off goalkeeper Jack Butland.
1 – Tom Ince has scored his first Premier League goal for Huddersfield with what was his 45th shot of the season. Relief.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2017
Stoke continued to trail despite going agonisingly close four times in quick succession as the half-hour mark approached.
After Mathias Jorgensen gave the ball away, Xherdan Shaqiri sent a chip narrowly wide of the far post from a tight angle, with a slight deflection off Chris Lowe conceding a corner. From the dead-ball delivery, Ryan Shawcross had a good header saved and Kurt Zouma’s follow-up shot was spurned.
With danger still not averted, a back-heel effort from Choupo-Moting was cleared off the line, and from the subsequent cross, a Zouma header fell for the Cameroon striker to attempt a bicycle kick, which goal-line technology showed was just millimetres from crossing the line in its entirety before being tipped onto the post, and then held, by Lossl.
Shawcross was forced off soon after that extraordinary passage of play and Huddersfield found the route to goal eased twice in quick succession.
Rajiv van La Parra was the man to go close on each occasion, drawing a save from Butland in the 41st minute with a curling shot across the face of goal, and then shooting narrowly wide of the near post.
Choupo-Moting had the ball in the back of the net but was denied by the offside flag, perhaps unfairly, in first-half injury time.
Having survived near misses from Ince and Steve Mounie, Stoke did equalise in 60th minute, when they caught the hosts napping with a quick free-kick. Joe Allen played a one-two with Choupo-Moting to get in down the left and crossed to the back post, where substitute Sobhi, the first-half replacement for Shawcross, slid in to finish.
Aaron Mooy had a strong penalty shout ignored by referee Anthony Taylor following a clumsy challenge from Allen in the 66th minute, while more ambitious appeals from Stoke substitute Mame Biram Diouf soon after were also waved away.
Another claim for a spot-kick arrived in the 80th minute, when Kevin Wimmer went to ground to dispossess Quaner, Taylor and the assistant referee deeming it to have been a clean challenge.
At the other end, Lossl was required to claw away a dangerous Crouch header back across the face of goal.
As full-time approached, Joe Lolley, on in place of Van La Parra, drew two stops from Butland, who then bravely punched a corner clear and collided with Zouma in the process, amid a fittingly frantic conclusion to an entertaining contest.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 26, 2017
KEY OPTA STATS
– Huddersfield are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Stoke (W3 D3), in a run stretching back to 1997.
– Only Southampton (11) are on a current longer run without a Premier League clean sheet than Stoke (10, level with Newcastle).
– Ramadan Sobhi has scored in consecutive Premier League games, after failing to find the net in his first 29 appearances in the competition.
– Huddersfield kept a clean sheet in their first three Premier League games this season, but have managed to keep a shutout in just three of the 17 since.
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