Wednesday, 20 September 2017
The second fantastic performance in four days at Ashton Gate, last night's win was about as comfortable cup upset as you can get against a Premier League team. Here are my thoughts on the eleven who played, plus Lee Johnson.
Luke Steele, 7: Had a surprisingly quietish debut but did everything he was asked. There were one or two moments of uncertainty when balls fell in the dead zone between him and the back four, but that's to be expected on his first appearance.
Zak Vyner, 6: May seem harsh, but whilst he mainly did ok there were three moments where he misjudged his positioning, leaving Stoke with chances to capitalise. But largely did well against quality opposition.
Aden Flint, 9: Almost faultless. The fact that Peter Crouch shook his hand and applauded him when he was substituted after a completely fruitless evening said it all. No real pace or trickery to threaten his usual weaknesses and made a superb clearance off the line at 0-0. He was the one shouting and organising a back five that hadn't played together before. Provided one of the funniest moments of the game when forward from a corner, he stayed up and ran across the back line, back & forth, about eight times, waiting for a cross or long ball in that never came!
Jens Hegeler, 8: Solid at the back, put in one superb sliding block challenge and at times showed some of the composure on the ball from his first few games with City. My only criticism is he might have been caught out of position a few times against a more attacking team, but no issues tonight.
Hordur Magnusson, 7: Proved we have more genuine cover at left-back after Lloyd Kelly's performance in the last round. Solid enough, kept their wide men quiet in the main, but distribution wasn't always on the mark and one of the few to give the ball away a few times in the first half.
Niclas Eliasson, 7: Earned the 7 for his endeavour but felt he was a bit disappointing in terms of an attacking threat. Didn't really use the ball well enough when in attacking positions, but that should come with more game time and experience.
Marlon Pack, 9 (MotM): Controlled the game superbly in the middle of the park, Stoke simply never got close enough to him. Kept the ball moving at pace and, along with Josh Brownhill, ran the game to such an extent that Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam were totally dominated, both receiving yellow cards through sheer frustration and moaning to the referee all night. Would have been a 10 had his left-foot 25-yard shot hit the target and not the corner flag!
Josh Brownhill, 9: This guy gets better with every game and tonight was possibly his best performance in a City shirt. Did the leg work to protect the back four, passed the ball neatly, battled to keep possession and was a threat going forward, not letting Fletcher and Adam settle all night. Can't be long until he's the first midfielder on the team sheet every week.
Callum O'Dowda, 8: Excellent hard-working performance down the left flank. He protected Mags well, provided a threat going forward but the most impressive thing for me is how he carries the ball forward. He's not necessarily a tricky, creative traditional winger but he carries the ball well, rarely loses it and more often than not, gets a free-kick once he runs into too many defenders. Did it countless times this evening and linked well with Pack, Brownhill & Taylor in particular.
Matty Taylor, 9: The sponsors' MotM and hard to argue. Any doubts that he has the quality to cope at Championship level were dispelled against experienced Premier League defenders. Came off the front line tirelessly all night to help the midfielders have a pass to make and protected the ball well each time. He rarely loses it and also pressurised the back line, created chances for himself and others. The only minor blot was the finishing - he'll be delighted with his goal and assist but he will know he should have had a hat-trick after three 1-on-1s
Famara Diedhiou, 8.5: Another who surely put in his best performance in a City shirt. Looked stronger and faster than at any previous time, battled well in the air and gave the Stoke back three a truly uncomfortable evening. Before teams started playing one up front the strikers were all about partnerships, and his first game alongside Taylor showed great promise. Got the goal his performance deserved.
Lee Johnson, 10: Coming off the back of seven points from nine, a 4-1 win and facing another three games in seven days next week, Johnson made nine changes and got it absolutely spot on. The recruitment drive is now starting to bear fruit with a young, pacy, attacking squad who look united and full of belief in each other. The side was set up perfectly - those who came in showed true hunger and desire (that's not always easy to make happen) and the high-pressing tactics caused Stoke to have a mistake-ridden, uncomfortable and disappointing night.
Forcing Premier League opposition to change formation to cope with how you've set up and then make a half-time substitution to try and force something to happen is a proper nod of respect.
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