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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Mark Hughes praises Stoke City's character as Peter Crouch earns them draw with Leicester City

Claude Puel's side twice led, but are pegged back both times as Premier League clash ends 2-2.

Mark Hughes was content as his Stoke City side came from behind twice to earn a point against Leicester City. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images
Mark Hughes was content as his Stoke City side came from behind twice to earn a point against Leicester City. Matthew Lewis / Getty Images

The last time Leicester City drew with Midlands rivals, their manager was fired the following day.

It is safe to say there will be no repeat at a trigger-happy club, not least because this was only Claude Puel’s second game in charge and he won the first.

But it could be framed as Continuity 2 Change 2, mid-table teams pursuing different models and ultimately cancelling each other out.

Stoke owed their point to the hardy perennial Peter Crouch, a sign that things often stay the same in the Potteries.

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Since July 2006, Stoke have had two managers, Leicester 10 (11 if Nigel Pearson is counted for each of his spells in charge) and a further two caretakers.

Unlike Craig Shakespeare, Mark Hughes was not dismissed when his side slipped into the bottom three.

They have since taken four points from two games. His side rode their luck yesterday, but they twice conjured equalisers.

“We showed great character,” said Hughes, reflecting on his side having gone close to winning the game in the closing minutes.

“Kasper Schmeichel made a couple of outstanding saves, not least the one at the end,” Hughes noted. Kurt Zouma was denied in injury time.

“We could have lost,” Puel admitted. Leicester’s earlier efforts nonetheless led him to say: “It is difficult to accept this draw.”

The drama offered different conclusions. An unprepossessing game brought unexpected entertainment.

It belied Puel’s bland persona, but then despite his reputation for greyness, he prospered by going Gray against Everton.

The new manager had a catalytic effect by parachuting Demarai Gray in and the winger was excellent again, bringing dynamism and supplying Shinji Okazaki when Jack Butland made a superb save, but his influence was indirect.

Two other creators – his teammate Riyad Mahrez and Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri – had a more immediate impact on the scoring.

Mahrez’s return to form actually predates Puel’s appointment. He scored Leicester’s last goal under Shakespeare. His third in five games came for a third different coach, including the caretaker Michael Appleton.

He met Wilfred Ndidi’s crossfield ball, darted past Erik Pieters, turned infield and directed a shot under Butland.

Mahrez’s corner had led to the opener. Successive summer spending sprees have cost Leicester the best part of £150 million (Dh720.3m) and, arguably, two managers their jobs.

If they have received too little in return, Vicente Iborra at least repaid some of his £15m fee, opening his Leicester account in emphatic fashion.

“We know Iborra has the ability to score on free kicks,” said Puel.

The Spaniard appeared strangely invisible to the Stoke defence: he materialised unmarked in their box three times in seven minutes and, with better finishing, would have had a hat-trick.

It was evidence of why Stoke have the worst defensive record in the division.

They also lack a regular scorer. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s only goals came against Manchester United.

After being denied by Schmeichel, he mustered an assist instead, an impressive performer flicking the ball into the path of the onrushing Shaqiri, who finished stylishly.

The Swiss specialises in the spectacular, scoring only long-range goals: this, from about 12 yards, was a tap-in by his standards.

With Stoke trailing 2-1, Hughes made a tried-and-trusted switch. Crouch equalled Shola Ameobi’s record of 142 substitute appearances in the division.

He already had the most headed goals in its history. He added a 52nd from Shaqiri’s corner.

“It’s not a bad option,” said Hughes, with deliberate understatement. The 36-year-old may yet force his way back into his side.

“Everyone is saying he is Plan B. if it continues, he may be Plan A.”

Like these two clubs, Hughes faces a decision whether to stick or twist.

Continuity or change? A derby draw offered evidence of the merits of both.