Good times for Everton but for Stoke City and Mark Hughes, a growing sense of injustice

Richard Jolly reports on Everton's narrow victory over Stoke City at Goodison Park.

Leighton Baines, centre, took the penalty that rebounded off the post onto Shay Given that earned Everton victory against Stoke City. Ian MacNicol / Getty Images
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Everton 1 Stoke City

Given (51’ og)

Man of the Match: Gareth Barry (Everton)

It can be clichéd to talk of teams paying the penalty. In Stoke City's case, it is all too true. Another game brought another spot kick and another defeat.

It is no secret that the Premier League are clamping down on tugging in the 18-yard area but Stoke's defenders are deemed impervious to the new directives. In referees' eyes, they are repeating mistakes, with the same consequences. It is fuelling a perception they are being picked on.

“We are getting the thin end of the wedge,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes, complained. But when Phil Bardsley appeared to push Ashley Williams in the back, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and, while Shay Given got a hand to Leighton Baines’ spot kick, the ball went in via the goalkeeper and the woodwork.

Seven days earlier, Ryan Shawcross had grappled with Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi. That, too, produced a penalty, which led to a 4-1 loss.

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“I am more frustrated with this one than the Man City one,” Hughes said. “You can see why that was given with the new directives. The one here, there was a lot of movement in the box and Ashley Williams has gone down, whether he clipped his own heels. There was no pushing and no pulling. I thought it was very harsh.”

The sense at Stoke is that the rules are being applied differently where they are concerned.

“I feared this would happen at the start of the season that we would be penalised more readily than other teams,” Hughes said. “It has happened to me before with previous teams.”

Hughes muttered darkly about pictures of Shawcross being used by newspapers to illustrate holding in the penalty box.

He argued, too, that little separated the sides. Yet, as Everton manager Ronald Koeman said: "We had 18 shots, nine on target."

His team were denied by three goal-line clearances, two in the space of four first-half minutes. Ryan Shawcross had thwarted Romelu Lukaku either side of the interval, racing back behind Shay Given to clear the Belgian’s shot after the Everton striker had sped beyond the Stoke defence and then sliding in with a well-judged interception when he poked the ball past the goalkeeper.

In between Peter Crouch, recalled to score goals, prevented one by acrobatically hooking Williams’ header away and denying the Welshman a strike on his first league start since his £12 million (Dh57.9m) transfer from Swansea City.

Stoke had a solitary notable effort, which proved Baines’ influence was not confined to the visitors’ box. He retreated to hook the ball off his own line after Maarten Stekelenburg had pushed Marko Arnautovic’s shot on to the bar.

Stekelenburg’s performance showed why, although Koeman is looking for a new goalkeeper, it will not be Joe Hart. “He is not a third or second [choice] goalkeeper,” Koeman said.

His first home league win ensured Everton go into the international break with a healthy return of seven points from nine. Stoke have just one, a place at the foot of the table and a growing sense of injustice.

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