REPORT: Stoke City 2 Leicester City 2
STOKE CITY suffered a case of déjà vu as Leicester City clawed themselves back from 2-0 behind at the bet365 Stadium to claim a point for a second successive year.
First half goals from Bojan and Joe Allen, after Jamie Vardy saw red for a reckless challenge on Mame Diouf, put the Potters well and truly in the driving seat at the interval.
However, substitute Leonardo Ulloa crept a head over the line 20 minutes from time to offer a glimmer of hope to the travelling 3000 or so Leicester supporters.
Then, with just a minute of normal time remaining, Ahmed Musa leapt highest to meet an in-swinging centre and glanced the ball past Lee Grant from six-yards out.
A late long distance strike from Glenn Whelan stung the fingertips of Kasper Schmeichel, who impressed on his return to the starting 11, but that is as close as either side came to stealing maximum spoils.
Prior to kick-off Mark Hughes opted to revert back to a 3-4-3 line-up, recalling the likes of Mame Diouf, Giannelli Imbula and Bojan to the line-up.
Their places in the side were at the expense of the suspended Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Charlie Adam – with the latter two having to settle for places amongst the substitutes.
The two sides traded early blows with Jonathan Walters seeing a close range effort saved by Kasper Schmeichel, before Islam Slimani sliced a strike well wide of goal from 20-yards.
The game turned on its head when referee Craig Pawson sent Vardy back to the changing rooms for a two-footed challenge on Diouf – one that let the Senegalese in a heap on the ground.
Stoke began to really assert themselves on the visitors with their one man advantage and they were duly rewarded for their dominance when Pawson pointed to the penalty spot after Danny Simpson unnaturally handled Bojan’s attempted cross.
The Spaniard stepped up to the plate and dispatched his effort with real confidence, banishing the memories of missing his most recent effort against Bournemouth.
Six minutes later the lead was doubled when Imbula let rip a thumping effort that cannoned off both the post and the back of the helpless Schmeichel before falling nicely into the path of Allen, who tapped home a personal best fifth league goal of the campaign.
It appeared that all three points were heading to the Potteries, and the only frustration was that the lead wasn’t further extended with the Foxes stopper producing superb saves to deny Walters and Allen, who raced through on goal after being acutely picked out by Glen Johnson.
However, Claudio Ranieri produced a managerial masterstroke by introducing both Ulloa and Musa from the bench – with the pair having an instrumental effect on the outcome of the game.
It appeared all plain sailing for the hosts, who looked comfortable with 20 minutes remaining, only for an opportunist ball into the box being met by Ulloa, whose header beat Grant and bounced over the line despite Ryan Shawcross attempts to clear it off the line.
The goal breathed life and fire into the visitors, and the additional introduction of the pacey Demari Gray added an extra dimension to their attacking threat.
As the second half wore on, you could sense that the visitors were going to create at least one late opportunity to level matters, and that was exactly what happened when Riyad Mahrez whipped a ferocious ball into the penalty area which was met, and finished, by Musa.
Huge disappointment for the hosts, whose attentions now turn towards the clash with Liverpool on Tuesday week and Chelsea on New Years Eve.