Stoke City survived some nervy moments as they eased the pressure on manager Mark Hughes with a 3-1 victory over fellow strugglers West Brom at the bet365 Stadium.
After a run of one win in eight Premier League matches and three successive losses, another defeat on Saturday would have seen Stoke spend Christmas Day in the bottom three.
Hughes played down the severity of the Potters’ circumstances in his pre-match news conference but will no doubt be relieved to have seen his team get back to winning ways, while Alan Pardew’s search for a first success at the West Brom helm continues.
Joe Allen struck the opener in the 19th minute and laid on Stoke’s second in first-half stoppage time for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting after some tenacious work on the right wing – the first time the Wales international has scored and assisted a goal in the same Premier League match.
1 – Joe Allen has both scored and assisted a goal in the same Premier League game for the first time in his career. Catalyst. pic.twitter.com/9k3QmOgSPr
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 23, 2017
Guilty of spurning two quality chances in the opening period, Salomon Rondon partially atoned for those misses by halving the deficit early in the second half.
However, West Brom were unable to convert subsequent pressure into an equaliser and their club-record winless run now stands at 17 league matches, with an injury-time strike from substitute Ramadan Sobhi rubbing salt in their wounds.
The Baggies were dealt a further blow with Nacer Chadli – who only came on for James McClean at half-time – hobbling off just 16 minutes into his return from a six-week injury lay-off.
West Brom had lost in just one of their last seven visits to Stoke and that record appeared to give them the confidence to push forward in the early exchanges.
Jack Butland remained largely untested, though, and Allen punished the visitors when he turned Peter Crouch’s volleyed cross into the back of the net.
Rondon had a glorious chance to equalise in the 30th minute when Kurt Zouma inadvertently flicked the ball to the striker, who was standing in an offside position in the box. After letting it roll across his body, the Venezuelan showed a lack of composure with a poor shot that flew over.
Butland did superbly to get down to his left and push a curling shot from Rondon around the post two minutes before half-time, and West Brom conceded again soon after.
This time Allen was the provider, pouncing on some dreadful defending from Gareth Barry and releasing Choupo-Moting, who rounded Ben Foster and found a gap between Allan Nyom and Ahmed Hegazi to double Stoke’s lead.
West Brom pulled one back within six minutes of the restart. Chris Brunt’s long ball over the defence was latched on to by Rondon and he exploited some lax marking from Ryan Shawcross to finish beneath the onrushing Butland.
Choupo-Moting headed Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick delivery from the right narrowly over, before Chadli sustained a muscular injury that forced him off in the 61st minute.
West Brom pushed for an equaliser as the tension among the home fans rose, Jonny Evans seeing a pair of shots blocked before a stumbling Jay Rodriguez failed to stab Barry’s pass beyond Butland.
City holding on.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 23, 2017
The Stoke goalkeeper raced off his line and made a crucial interception to deny Rondon with three minutes remaining, the striker’s claim Butland used his arm outside the box going ignored by referee Neil Swarbrick.
There were heart-in-mouth moments for Stoke when Butland stopped Tom Edwards scoring an own goal with a crucial block, before the keeper’s punch from Jonny Evans’ header bounced off Rondon and missed the target.
But the Potters clinched the victory in stoppage time when Choupo-Moting led a counter-attack and squared for Ramadan to ensure West Brom’s wait for a win goes on.
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