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Dog’s dinner in the Cup

30 October 2013

Stoke City boss Mark Hughes slams his team’s naivety after needing penalties to beat 10-man Birmingham in the Capital One Cup

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes praised “magnificent” 10-man Birmingham City but, after seeing the Premier League Potters take the lead three times and then have to settle for penalties to knock the Sky Bet Championship side out of the Capital One Cup, he was withering in his criticism of his own team.

In what Hughes described as “a bizarre game from start to finish” at St Andrew’s, Stoke led 1-0, 3-1 and then 4-3 in extra-time but could not kill off Blues, who had winger Wade Elliott sent off on the stroke of half-time for an elbowing offence, until winning the shoot-out 4-2 with some deadly accurate spot-kicks.

“We made a dog’s dinner of that,” said the Potters boss. “Birmingham were magnificent, but against 10 men and 3-1 to the good with just a few minutes to go, we should see out the game quite comfortably – there was an unbelievable amount of naivety in terms of what was required to put the match to bed.”

Tom Adeyemi had equalised Oussama Assaidi’s early opener for Stoke when Elliott saw red. Peter Crouch and Marko Arnautovic then opened up a two-goal advantage for the visitors, but substitute Peter Lovenkrands struck twice in the last five minutes of normal time to set up an extra-time thriller.

Once again Stoke went ahead, this time through substitute Kenwyne Jones – but yet again Lee Clark’s team drew level, sub Olly Lee equalising two minutes from the end of extra-time. Sadly for the home side, however, their first two shoot-out penalties were missed while all four of Stoke’s found the net.

“For the neutral,” noted Hughes, “they will have thought it was a fantastic game – but from my point of view, I thought it was awful.” Awful it may have been for the visiting manager, but his team are nevertheless through to the Capital One Cup’s quarter-finals and so just two rounds from a Wembley final.

Hughes knows what it feels like to go all the way and win the competition having done so three times as a player – with Manchester United, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers. He has also reached the semi-finals with Blackburn as manager. Stoke, meanwhile, have not won a major trophy since their 1972 League Cup triumph.

Now the manager would like to mark his first season at the Britannia Stadium by bridging the club’s four-decade trophy hiatus. “It would be great for the club,” he said, “but for the fans as well – they came out in their numbers tonight, they were magnificent for us and it would be great to reward them.”

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