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Jermaine Pennant came off the bench to score a late free-kick as Stoke City recorded a 1-0 Barclays Premier League win at West Ham United.
The visitors were the better side and kept West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen busy throughout the match, particularly in the first half. West Ham did improve after the break but Pennant curled in a delightful free-kick with eight minutes to play for the visitors.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce made 11 changes to the side that beat Cheltenham Town in the League Cup on Tuesday, recalling Jaaskelainen, Kevin Nolan and Matt Jarvis among others. Stoke were also victorious during the week as a Kenwyne Jones hat-trick inspired them to a 3-1 win over Walsall, and the forward kept his place in the side, while winger Matthew Etherington was included against his former club.
Jones almost continued his scoring form inside the first 10 minutes as he latched on to a through-ball from Charlie Adam but, after holding off Winston Reid, he could only fire over.
West Ham gradually grew into the game, but their final ball let them down on several occasions. Stoke, who had eight shots on goal in the first half, continued to threaten and Jaaskelainen made several good saves, initially turning Marc Wilson's swerving volley wide. The Finland international then kept out a close-range header from Jonathan Walters, who was judged to be offside. West Ham's first significant chance of the match came in the 35th minute, but Modibo Maiga could not direct his harder on target after a good Jarvis cross, as both sides went to the break without a goal.
Stoke picked up where they left off in the second half, and nearly took the lead in fortuitous circumstances. Adam's in-swinging corner hit an unsuspecting Ryan Shawcross on the thigh but went wide, while Allardyce looked to substitute Ravel Morrison to spark his side into life. Reid had a chance at the other end for West Ham, but volleyed over after a corner was improperly cleared, before Stoke took a deserving lead in the 82nd minute.
Pennant, who had been introduced just six minutes earlier for Etherington, curled the set-piece around the wall, giving Jaaskelainen no chance. Although West Ham threw bodies forward late in a bid to get an equaliser, Pennant's first goal since May 2011 was enough to give Stoke all three points.
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: "Well it's a real shock to me and I think everybody who came to watch the game will be as shocked as I am because we obviously were looking forward to this home game after how far we've come in a short period of time. Stoke go away with the three points and there's not a lot of arguing I could do against that because we just didn't get to the level we know we can. Because we didn't do that, we didn't put Stoke City under any real pressure.
"In the end, they scored after a sloppy bit of play by ourselves giving the ball away in our own half and then giving the free-kick away. Obviously, the technical part of Jermaine Pennant's free-kick was superb, but we should never have let ourselves get into that position. Instead of digging it out and, despite being decidedly average, come out with a nil-nil, we've ended up losing the game."
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: “I was aware that West Ham had a really good home record and it’s a difficult place to come to but I have to say it was a great performance by us, near perfect in fact. I thought we were in total control of the game and were in no danger of conceding. We always looked a threat with our progressive play and with a little bit more of a cutting edge we possibly might have won the game by more.
“You always worry that a goal might not come; there’s a fear that a ball into your box might go the wrong way and someone dispatches it. Thankfully, we defended brilliantly; dealt with everything they threw at us and always looked a threat on the break. Jermaine is a smashing lad. He always comes into training with a smile on his face, works hard and is desperate to do well. He’s got great ability and because of that there’s always a chance that he will a game for you.
“We’re still in the mix for a number of players and hope to do some business. If we are able to bring some in I think it will help the group but anyone who does come in will be joining a squad that is really strong, really committed and knows what the Premier League is all about.”
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