Peter Crouch came off the bench to rescue a point for Stoke City against Leicester City in a 2-2 draw at the Bet365 Stadium, marking his record-equalling 142nd substitute appearance with a timely intervention.
The former England international was introduced with 17 minutes remaining and the Potters trailing 2-1 but bagged an equaliser to give Mark Hughes‘ side a point their performance merited.
A swift Stoke breakaway saw Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting angle a first-time pass into Xherdan Shaqiri who advanced into the penalty area before firing past Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel in the 39th minute.
The Foxes retook the lead after an hour when Riyad Mahrez danced into the penalty area and drilled low past Jack Butland from an acute angle.
But the Potters clawed back an equaliser when Shaqiri’s corner from the left was met by Crouch who stooped to power a header past Schmeichel.
Stoke scared of Leicester counter
The common trap teams playing the Foxes fall into is allowing Jamie Vardy to do what he does best – namely sprint away on the counter-attack to score – by playing too high a line and pressing too aggressively.
The sight of the England international, having broken the opponents’ defensive line, bursting into acres of space before finding the back of the net was a familiar one when the Foxes won the title two seasons ago. And although Leicester have evolved since, the swift counter to unleash Vardy’s pace remains a key weapon in their arsenal.
But credit should go to Stoke boss Hughes who set his side up with the clear intention of avoiding that scenario. The Potters were reluctant to engage the visitors and only began to press when Leicester got into their half.
Even then it was fairly passive stuff from Stoke who have been licking their wounds since that 7-2 stuffing at the hands of Manchester City. The Potters won 1-0 at surprise package Watford last weekend with a disciplined and organised performance. The plan was exactly the same today and it got Stoke a point.
Leicester the new Stoke?
Going into the game these two sides led the way for goals from corners this season with four apiece.
It was little surprise, therefore, that corners came to dominate the game with both sides scoring from them. In years gone by Stoke have been pigeon-holed as a side whose main – if not only – threat comes from set pieces. Yet it was Leicester who caused more problems with deliveries into the box.
Soon after Iborra had opened the scoring by turning home Maguire’s knockdown the Spaniard had a golden opportunity to double up. But Stoke, following the introduction of Crouch, provided a renewed threat of their own at corners.
And Crouch, having already levelled, might have won it with the last play of the game were it not for a flying Schmeichel save.
Peter Crouch: game changer
Stoke lacked any kind of presence up front until the introduction of Crouch in the 69th minute. While Choupo-Moting was a handful for Leicester to deal with at times, the former Schalke forward tended to come short or drift into wide areas – unsurprising given he has often played as one of the two No.10s in Hughes’ preferred 3-4-2-1 system this season.
But given the chance to lead the line he struggled against Leicester’s burly centre-half pairing of Wes Morgan and Maguire and the hosts struggled to make the ball stick up front.
That was until former Liverpool and England man Crouch was introduced. The gangly forward has carved out a niche as an effective substitute this season, scoring twice off the bench already – including a priceless late winner against former club Southampton.
So it was little surprise when the evergreen 36-year-old, who was equalling Shola Ameobi’s record as the most substituted on player in Premier League history, levelled with a trademark header – his 52nd in the top flight and more than any other player. He had already won more in the air at that point than any other Stoke attacker and his introduction gave the Potters an outlet, turning the game in their favour as he troubled the Leicester defence with his presence – something which proved too much for them to handle.
Only a stunning reaction stop from Foxes keeper Schmeichel denied Crouch a dramatic last-gasp winner in the final moments of the game. Whether he can start games any more is a different matter. But off the bench there are few as effective as the Stoke man who was named Man of the Match for his part in changing the game.
Mahrez & Gray win battle of flanks
It’s been a good week for Leicester winger Demarai Gray. Handed just his second start of the campaign by new boss Claude Puel against Everton last weekend he was the star of the show. He followed that performance up by signing a new contract in the week and terrorised Stoke at times today.
Credit should go to on-loan Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma who, with the help of midfield warhorse Darren Fletcher, managed to stop Gray (7) running riot. But, in the first half in particular, everything good from Leicester came down the left.
On the opposite flank, goalscorer Mahrez (26) was a menace throughout. The former Roma transfer target, who was also subject of Arsenal transfer rumours in the summer, has thrived as a No.10 this season but is best out wide, committing defenders one-v-one and forcing mistakes.
And the superiority Gray and Mahrez enjoyed was shown in their average positions compared to that of Stoke wing-backs Mame Biram Diouf (18), who came in field more often than not, and Erik Pieters (3), who was pegged back.