A sublime strike from Xherdan Shaqiri secured Stoke City a 1-0 win over struggling Newcastle United in the Premier League to move within five points of the Champions League places.
The Switzerland international was a passenger for the majority of the game at the Britannia Stadium but he proved his class in the 80th minute when his shot rifled into the top-left corner past a helpless Rob Elliot.
The victory moves Stoke into seventh in the league table, while Newcastle remain in the relegation zone after a disappointing display.
For long periods of what proved to be a turgid affair, it looked as though Newcastle were going to climb out of the drop zone with a battling draw.
But Shaqiri’s excellent strike condemned Steve McClaren’s men to a sixth successive away defeat to leave them second from bottom, level on points with Norwich City and fierce rivals Sunderland.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who fielded an unchanged side from the 2-1 win over Aston Villa, saw his side enjoy some early possession. That almost brought the first goal of the game in the 12th minute when Erik Pieters’ cross nearly caught out Elliot, who just managed to palm it away from danger.
The home side were forced into a change midway through the half when Phil Bardsley was replaced by Marc Muniesa, with Geoff Cameron then switching to right-back.
Shaqiri went close again before the break but his left-footed curling effort went just wide of the far post. The visitors then almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Moussa Sissoko broke clear but Cameron was on hand to thwart the danger with a well-timed tackle.
Neither side grabbed the initiative in the opening exchanges of the second-half but Ibrahim Afellay came close to opening the scoring with a looping volley from outside the area.
In an attempt to find the breakthrough, Hughes threw on forwards Peter Crouch and Mame Biram Diouf with 20 minutes to go. The duo nearly made an immediate impact from a corner but Crouch was unable to pounce when Elliot’s punch failed to clear the box.
Diouf then played his part in the goal after he fed a simple ball to Shaqiri who took one touch before drilling the ball home.
Newcastle had one final chance in the dying seconds when Jonjo Shelvey charged down the left but Jack Butland produced a superb fingertip save to deny substitute Seydou Doumbia’s left-footed effort.
Marko Arnautovic then rattled the crossbar with his powerful drive from just outside the area as Stoke went close to a second, but it mattered little as they held on to make it three consecutive league wins.
Key Opta stats:
– The last five Premier League meetings between Stoke City and Newcastle United have seen just five goals scored, with three of the games being 1-0 home wins for Stoke City.
– Newcastle have lost 17 of their last 21 Premier League away games (W2 D2 L17).
– Only Aston Villa (6) have won fewer points away from home in the Premier League this season than Newcastle (7).
– Peter Crouch made his 400th Premier League appearance in this match.