Stoke City added another impressive win to its ledger and took over 11th place from Everton in a 1-0 victory Friday. Here are a few takeaways from the first of three Premier League games in seven days for both clubs during the busy holiday season.
1. Boxing Day blues continue for Howard.
Tim Howard hobbled off near the end of a first half extended by nearly 10 minutes of added time due to injuries to several players, and was replaced by Joel Robles, who made his first league appearance since replacing Howard a year ago.
On Boxing Day of last year against Sunderland, Howard was sent off for fouling Ki Sung-Yueng in the penalty area, and Robles’ first touch was to pick the South Korean international’s PK out of the net. Sunderland took home a 1-0 victory. In Everton’s next match, Robles replaced the suspended Howard in a 2-1 defeat of Southampton.
Stoke City was awarded a penalty when Bojan Krkic drew a foul by James McCarthy, and though Howard guessed correctly by diving to his right, Bojan’s well-hit shot nestled just inside the goalpost. In the final minutes of added time, Howard came up limping with a calf injury after a routine kick of a ball rolling back to him.
Howard, who is doubtful for Sunday's match at Newcastle, has been Everton’s starting goalkeeper since joining the team on loan from Manchester United in 2006. He has played 314 Premier League matches for the club and has 370 appearances in all competitions.
2. Cameron is back at right back.
He’d been deployed successfully in central midfield for a run of games, but an injury to Phil Bardsley prompted Stoke manager Mark Hughes to move Geoff Cameron to right back. (Bardsley came to Stoke City during the summer from Sunderland and had played in the 1-0 win at Everton last Boxing Day.)
In a 2-0 loss to Chelsea last weekend, Cameron lost the mark on defender John Terry, who scored Chelsea’s first goal after a corner kick. In Stoke City’s previous match, a 1-1 tie with Crystal Palace, Cameron’s play in central midfield was lauded by several outlets.
Against Everton, Cameron got forward several times. A driven cross by Cameron just missed the head of Bojan as the referee’s assistant’s flag incorrectly went up for offside. In the second half, some effective interplay with Jonathan Walters opened up space for him on the right flank but his deliveries didn’t produce any shots.
Defensively, only twice did Cameron err. He dawdled on the ball near the sideline and unnecessarily gave away a free kick, and when he scuffed an attempted interception on a ball played across the goalmouth by Steven Naismith, a shot by Kevin Mirallas -- left unmarked when Cameron slid into the middle -- flashed past the post.
Otherwise, Cameron held his position secure and twice calmly cleared balls out of danger after keeper Asmir Begovic, who recovered from a couple of very shaky first-half incidents, had provided crucial saves. Cameron took a caution in the 83rd minute for wasting time on a throw-in, which he eventually took several yards further up the sideline than the original spot.
Several other decisions by referee Lee Mason drew more notice. Mason elected not to send off Jonathan Walters when he hauled down Leighton Baines chasing a ball that would have yielded a breakaway, and the penalty-kick incident looked dubious though McCarthy did appear to shove Krkic at the tail end of their confrontation.
3. Potter push on with another big away win.
Cameron has started Stoke City’s last eight games, the first four of which the Potters lost. In their last four games they have won two, lost one, and tied one. By defeating Everton Stoke dislodged the Toffees from 11th place and took over that spot. Last year, Everton finished fifth and Stoke placed ninth.
Though Everton isn’t ranked among the Premier League’s elite, the road victory burnished Stoke City’s reputation of toughing it out against bigger clubs. Already this season it has won at Tottenham and Manchester City and defeated Arsenal at home.
TRIVIA. Everton defender Gareth Barry became the first player to be cautioned 100 times in Premier League play when he committed a foul late in the first half. The card broke a three-way tie for most cautions with Lee Bowyer and Kevin Davies, neither of which is likely to challenge him further. Bowyer hasn’t played competitively for two years and Davies is laboring in the lower divisions.
Dec. 26 in Liverpool
Everton 0 Stoke City 1. Goal: Bojan pen. 37.
Everton -- Howard (Robles, 46), Coleman, Stokes, Jagielka (Alcaraz, 46), Baines, Barry, McCarthy (Eto'o, 69), Mirallas, Naismith, Barkley, Lukaku.
Stoke -- Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters, N'Zonzi, Whelan, Walters, Bojan (Adam, 67), Arnautovic (Assaidi, 76), Diouf (Crouch, 90).