A delightful Xherdan Shaqiri free-kick secured Stoke City a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough on Saturday, denying the promoted side all three points after ending their seven-year Premier League exile.
New signing Alvaro Negredo had initially given Boro an early lead, taking just 11 minutes to make his mark after two years away from English football, but a moment of genius from Shaqiri ultimately levelled things up in the second half.
Stoke were lucky not to find themselves 2-0 down at the break, though, as Gaston Ramirez hammered against the post shortly before half-time.
The visitors failed to produce much of a response but did eventually grow into proceedings in the second half and drew level with 23 minutes left – Shaqiri finding the net with a fine finish from a free-kick.
Boro continued to fight back in search of a late winner but both sides cancelled each other out in the end, with the promoted hosts given a timely reminder of the concentration and quality on show in the Premier League.
Aitor Karanka gave full debuts to five of his nine new arrivals from the start and his team showed no signs of struggling to gel, attacking Stoke with great ferocity in the early exchanges.
And the most high-profile of those new additions made a telling impact 11 minutes in, as Negredo bundled in from close range after Ramirez – another close-season acquisition – nodded Albert Adomah’s cross into the danger zone.
Boro lost some momentum when a suspected hamstring injury for Marten de Roon ruined the Dutchman’s Premier League bow after just 20 minutes, but Stoke failed to capitalise.
The hosts found their feet again after the half-hour mark and went agonisingly close to doubling their lead in the 36th minute, only for Ramirez’s low drive to clip the right-hand post following a driving run into the area.
Boro began to sit back a little more after the break, but they still remained a potent threat on the break.
Albert Adomah initially did brilliantly on the right in the 58th minute, skipping past Erik Pieters on the counter and bursting into the final third, but he inexplicably failed to pick out Negredo in the centre.
And Stoke made the most of that let-off in the 67th minute, as Shaqiri sent a fierce 25-yard free-kick across goal and into the bottom-right corner to equalise in style.
Both sides poured plenty of men forward during the latter stages as they eyed respective winners, but the frequent long balls did not cause great difficulty for either goalkeeper.
There did prove to be one final chance and it fell to Stewart Downing at the back post following a fine Adomah cross, but the winger headed straight into the arms of Shay Given and Stoke held on for a point.
Key Opta stats:
– Middlesbrough have never won on the opening weekend of a Premier League season as a newly-promoted team (D3 L1).
– Negredo has now scored with his first shot on target in the Premier League for both Manchester City and Middlesbrough.
– Shaqiri scored Stoke’s first direct free-kick goal in the Premier League since October 2013 [Marko Arnautovic vs Manchester United].
– Stoke are winless in their last seven Premier League season openers, drawing three and losing four.
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