Bojan shows his steely side

Everton 0 Stoke 1 Stoke City forward Bojan Krkic emphasised why he is a man for all seasons at Goodison Park.

Bojan shows his steely side

There is no doubting the Spaniard’s talent, but maybe there have been question marks about his ability to deliver it consistently.

However, concerns that he might not fancy a gritty game on a freezing cold day in December on Merseyside were swiftly answered with a classy performance and the decisive goal.

Instead of enjoying Europe’s winter break as he would have done during Christmas previously, Bojan’s shins were getting a kicking from Everton’s defenders – enough to see him substituted in the 67th minute with a knock.

But while on the field he did not shirk from the challenge and showed Stoke boss Mark Hughes that he has the steel as well as the quality to endure.

He was fleet of foot and quick of mind, so it was little surprise he provided the key moment as he won and scored a penalty which handed the Potters only their second win on this ground since 1981.

“It’s an old cliché. It wasn’t a wet Tuesday night in Stoke was it?” Hughes joked.

“It’s something that if people see that weakness in Bojan’s play or hard work they will say ‘he’s not quite right for the game here’.

“But in the short space of time he’s been here I think he’s knocked those thoughts on the head.

“He’s an exceptional professional, works hard every single day to get better and stronger.”

This was not an encounter for the faint hearted with blood and thunder challenges and injuries picked up on both sides which could leave them short on bodies over the remainder of the festive period.

Everton, who have now won just once in six league games, were punished by a Stoke counter attack when referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty just after the half-hour mark.

The host’s defensive record at home has been poor with 15 goals now conceded this season – the worst home record in the top-flight – and it was easy to see why it has been porous with mistakes such as this.

The tricky Bojan cut in from the byline and went down as Everton midfielder James McCarthy attempted to claw the back of his shirt, with Hughes adamant he also caught the Catalan forward’s leg.

“Bojan did fantastic to really drive the game, carry the ball. It was a real positive run into the box and under those circumstance defenders knows they have to be very careful,” Hughes added.

It was a soft penalty, but with definite contact, McCarthy, who had returned to the starting line-up after a spell out with a hamstring injury, could have few arguments about the outcome in front of the watching Roy Keane.

Everton goalkeeper Howard guessed correctly and dived to his right but could not keep out Bojan’s low effort which nestled into the bottom-left corner.

The Toffees had plenty of chances, however, to get themselves on level terms as they monopolised possession with the best of them falling to Kevin Mirallas just before half-time, but he screwed his shot wide from a good position.

“I thought we created enough chances to get back in the game,” said Everton boss Roberto Martinez. “I couldn’t fault the attitude, effort and desire. But we didn’t have a clarity on how to break Stoke down.

“We are hurting because we lost the game. In the second half we missed the leadership in the team of Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka who went off injured.”

Martinez was also furious with referee Mason’s decision not to send off Stoke forward Jonathan Walters when he pulled back Leighton Baines after the Toffees left-back had broken clear.

“I don’t understand why it’s a yellow card, not a red card,” Martinez said.

“Leighton is running through and is a distance away, but there’s no other Stoke defender and Walters is the last man, and for me it’s a clear goalscoring opportunity.”

EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 6 (Robles 45; 6); Coleman 7, Jagielka 5 (Alcaraz 45; 6), Stones 5, Baines 6; McCarthy 5 (Eto’o 69; 5), Barry 5; Mirallas 7, Naismith 6, Barkley 5; Lukaku 5.

STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1): Begovic 7; Cameron 6, Shawcross 7, Muniesa 6, Pieters 6; Whelan 6, Nzonzi 6; Walters 5, Krkic 8 (Adam 67; 5) , Arnautovic 6 (Assaidi 76; 5; Diouf 6 (Crouch 90; 6)

Referee: Lee Mason

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