Stoke City manager Mark Hughes says striker Peter Crouch still has a “huge role” to play at the club after scoring the winner against Southampton.
The 36-year-old striker came on as a substitute in the 70th-minute before poking home to hand his side their second victory of the season.
Crouch has scored three goals in seven appearances for Stoke this season, two of those coming as a substitute.
“Crouch wants to play more games and wants more starts but as a sub he gives the opposition something more to deal with,” Hughes said.
“He has a huge role here and has come up trumps for us late in the day. We got over the line in the end.”
Mame Biram Diouf’s header put the hosts ahead and they should have doubled their lead a minute later.
Virgil van Dijk, making his first league start since January for Saints, brought down Saido Berahino in the box but his penalty was saved by Fraser Forster.
Southampton equalised through the unlikely source of Maya Yoshida but Crouch came off the bench to secure the three points.
He was the difference as Stoke beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s in May – a game in which Saints enjoyed the majority of the possession but were poor in the final third.
And it was a similar story at the Bet365 Stadium where their chronic lack of confidence in front of goal showed.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s side fell behind when Diouf was left unmarked in the box and nodded in from Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner but Yoshida gave Saints hope with a remarkable scissor-kick volley from Shane Long’s flick-on.
Saints, behind again, saved their best chances for the final 10 minutes, substitute Manolo Gabbiadini had two shots inside 60 seconds, but his side were left empty-handed.
Berahino drought continues
Saido Berahino started only his second game of the season for Stoke, given the nod up front ahead of Jese as Mark Hughes’s side looked to come back from a 4-0 defeat by Chelsea last weekend.
And the 24 year-old striker was afforded the perfect opportunity to net his first goal for the club after being clipped in the box by Van Dijk.
But he was denied from the spot by the out-stretched hand of England keeper Forster and he has now gone 30 Premier League games without scoring a goal – he last found the back of the net in February 2016 in West Brom’s 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
Berahino has not always been shy in front of the goal – the West Brom academy product netted 20 goals in 45 appearances for the club in 2014-15, before his relationship with Albion boss Tony Pulis broke down.
Having gone six months without playing, he was finally sold to Stoke City for £12m in January 2017, but has failed to re-find his goal-scoring form.
Hughes seems to be persevering with the talented forward, but his inspired substitution on 70 minutes saw veteran Crouch once again show Berahino how it is done.
“It is a shame for Saido Berahino,” Hughes said after the game. “I thought he did OK. He showed personality to grab the ball and unfortunately the keeper batted the penalty away.
“He will always be judged on goals. He is working hard, he is in good physical condition but his time will come.”
Mixed return for Virgil van Dijk
This was a game in which two players had the opportunity to improve their relationship with both their managers and their fans.
The two in question, Berahino and Van Dijk, came together in the 43rd minute as Van Dijk flung a lazy leg at Berahino in the area.
The incident was a blow to both of their charm offensives, but aside from the needless penalty, defender Van Dijk was Saints’ best player.
He had been restored to the Southampton bench in recent weeks but this was his first league start for the club since 22 January.
The 26-year-old, who missed the second-half of last season with a knee injury, endured a tumultuous summer on the south coast.
His relationship with the club broke down when he handed in a transfer request, was ordered to train alone, his club accused pursuers Liverpool of making an illegal approach and he ended up staying put.
But Van Dijk was commanding in defence with a first-minute block on Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, before denying Kurt Zouma’s long-range shot and getting a vital deflection on Joe Allen’s goal-bound effort.
Man of the match – Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke)
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is Stoke’s top-scorer this season with two goals – which both came in a 2-2 draw against Manchester United.
And despite not getting on the scoresheet against Southampton, the Cameroon international was heavily involved in all of Stoke’s attacks.
The home side were pressed back by Saints for much of the game, but Choupo-Moting, who joined from Schalke in the summer, held up the ball up well when required.
He clocked up 48 total touches, second only to Joe Allen, before having a hand in the winner.
His first effort was blocked by Forster’s leg, but he poked a second shot back towards goal and Crouch was on hand to sweep in from two yards.
England recall for Crouch? – the stats
- Crouch is the oldest player to score in the Premier League this season (36 years 243 days old)
- Four of Peter Crouch’s last five Premier League goals have come as a substitute
- Saido Berahino is now without a goal in 31 hours & 48 minutes of Premier League football
- After scoring each of his first five Premier League penalties, Berahino has failed to score with each of his last three
- Southampton have suffered their first top-flight away defeat in five games, since losing to Chelsea in April
- Southampton have given away 10 penalties in the Premier League since the start of last season; a joint-high among current top-flight teams (also 10 for Arsenal and West Ham).
‘Scoring goals is difficult’ – what they said
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino said:
“We deserved a little bit more. We controlled the ball and put them under pressure. We were unlucky at the end but we played with character and gave everything.
“Scoring goals is the most difficult thing in modern football. I would like to score more. Sometime we have to have more accuracy but we have to keep believing.
“To organise the players is a long process but this game is another step.”
Stoke have a tough fixture at home to Manchester City next Saturday (15:00 BST) before Southampton host Newcastle United on Sunday (16:00 BST).