An injury-time penalty from Marko Arnautovic saw Stoke City secure a thrilling 4-3 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. With a rollercoaster contest looking set to end in a share of the points, Arnautovic was brought down by John Stones in the box and, despite slipping as he approached the ball, beat Tim Howard from the spot to give Stoke two wins out of two matches over Christmas.
Twice Stoke had taken the lead in the first half, on both occasions through Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri. But both times Everton came up with a response from their leading marksman Romelu Lukaku. When Gerard Deulofeu then put the hosts ahead with 19 minutes remaining they looked on course to keep their record perfect over Christmas. Instead, it was Stoke’s turn to strike back, first when substitute Joselu drilled the ball into Howard’s net and then through Arnautovic as Everton were left crestfallen.
The result takes Stoke above Everton in the Premier League and, at least temporarily, into eighth place.
In a contest between two teams that have produced some of the Premier League’s most eye-catching attacking play in recent weeks, the rash of goals they provided on Monday was perhaps hardly surprising. And for both teams it was players who are flourishing after leaving some of Europe’s biggest clubs who took center stage.
In Stoke’s case it was their trio of former Barcelona starlet Bojan, one-time Inter Milan man Arnautovic and, most prominent of all, Shaqiri, once of Inter and Bayern Munich. All three were involved in the opening goal 16 minutes in. Bojan, found Arnautovic, who laid it into the path of Shaqiri to produce a straightforward finish.
In contrast, there was nothing straightforward about Shaqiri’s second goal. Chasing onto the end of a ball over the top from Bojan on the edge of the box, Shaqiri stuck out his right foot and guided a perfect half-volley complete with backspin to take it over the head of the stranded Howard. The goals were Shaqiri’s first since his summer arrival from Inter Milan and a further sign that he, like Bojan and Arnautovic before him, is finding a home at Stoke where he can fulfill his undoubted potential.
Also delivering on his unquestioned talent of late is Lukaku. The Belgian had already cancelled out Shaqiri’s opening goal when he tuned expertly in the box from James McCarthy’s pass and beat Jack Butland. And his second goal to level the scores once more in the 64th minute was even more impressive. Having superbly chested a long Tom Cleverley pass into his path, the former Chelsea striker then finished coolly on his right foot.
Lukaku was involved again as Everton soon took the lead for the first time. The 22-year-old found Ross Barkley down the left, who put the ball on a plate for former Barcelona prodigy Deulofeu to tap in at the back post.
But not for the first time this season, Everton proved incapable of holding onto a late lead. With 10 minutes left, Howard’s touch could only take a teasing Arnautovic cross into the path of Joselu, who finished emphatically to register his first goal since his summer arrival from Hannover. And worse was to come for Roberto Martinez’s side. In the first minute of injury time, Stones was adjudged to have brought down Arnautovic illegally, despite his vehement protests that he got the ball first. And, even when losing his footing, Stoke’s Austrian enigma found the net to continue their rise up the table.