Before we get into it, may I start this post by wishing everyone who’s reading a very happy new year, and I hope that 2017 is absolutely wonderful for you all.
2016 has been a *different* year for Stoke City football club, and here’s our top five highlights of the year:
#1 THAT Anfield performance
Number one on the list comes from our second leg tie against Liverpool in 2016’s League Cup as The Potters stunned the footballing world with a truly exceptional performance.
Admittedly, Anfield hasn’t been too kind for us in 2016. Having played there twice in the Premier League this year, we have been defeated 4-1 in both games, both back in April and last Tuesday, but the game I will forever look back on fondly is the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
Trailing 0-1 after defeat in the first leg at the then Britannia Stadium, not many people gave Stoke City a chance in hell of progressing, and what happened after that was 120 minutes of pure brilliance from Stoke City football club.
Marko Arnautovic struck on the verge of half-time in front of the Kop end to level the tie albeit from an offside position after lovely work from our magician Bojan Krkic.
Despite a barrage of chances for Liverpool, they were shut out in impressive fashion by Butland and co.
Jonathan Walters and Marko Van Ginkel had huge chances to win the game for Stoke, who eventually went out on penalties with at-the-time Liverpool’s midfielder Joe Allen scoring the winning penalty. The Welshman eventually joined The Potters for £13m in the following July.
#2 AFCB 1-3 SCFC – Giannelli announces his arrival
Having joined for a club-record transfer fee of £18m in January, Giannelli Imbula impressed on his away debut in February after Shaqiri’s deflected effort was volleyed in outstanding fashion by Imbula from 20-yards to send The Potters on the way to a marvellous win.
Ibrahim Afellay and Joselu *cries* also found the net for Stoke with two lovely efforts to seal three points in the south coast.
Although beating Bournemouth isn’t necessarily our most impressive win of the year, Imbula’s strike was worth the entry fee alone, and our white third kit was just utterly gorgeous by all accounts.
#3 We’ve got the Welsh Pirlo!
After reaching the UEFA Europa League final for Liverpool, and more impressively, the UEFA Euro 2016 semi-finals with minnows Wales, Joe Allen joined Stoke for a relatively cheap fee of £13m back in July.
‘The Welsh Pirlo’ as he’s known to the wider football community found himself out of Jurgen Klopp’s plans at Liverpool, and in his words, “needed a change of scenery.”
Allen has netted a staggering five Premier League goals so far this season, and has been a key figure in what’s been a pretty average season thus far.
#4 OUR FIRST OLD TRAFFORD POINT!
Back in October, Stoke City were bottom when they made the short journey north, and when Anthony Martial struck in the 67th minute, it looked pretty routine from there on in.
That was until the aforementioned Allen capitalised on David De Gea’s inability to hold Glen Johnson’s effort at goal to grab our first ever point at Old Trafford.
A special mention has to go to Lee Grant who was utterly outstanding for Stoke as he kept out chance-after-chance from United on the day.
#5 Shaqiri’s masterclass at the KCOM
As previously mentioned, it’s not been a great year from Hughes’ boys, but this was one time I can honestly say it was a total pleasure watching this performance.
Stoke went into the game buoyed with confidence after picking up their first win of the season a week prior against Sunderland, and followed it up with a superb display in Humberside.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s staggering 25-yard-goal left Hull keeper David Marshall with no chance before the Swiss embarrassed him again just after half-time with a stupendous free-kick which again left the Scot with no chance.
The victory inspired a mini-run of form for Hughes’ side which seriously lifted them in the table after a quite dismal start to the campaign.