Stoke City and Leicester City shared a 2-2 draw at the bet365 Stadium for a third season in succession after veteran striker Peter Crouch came off the bench to salvage a point for the hosts.
Mark Hughes’ men avoided a third defeat in four Premier League outings despite twice falling behind – Vicente Iborra’s maiden Leicester goal breaking the deadlock before Riyad Mahrez found a second-half response to Xherdan Shaqiri’s fine 39th-minute equaliser.
Claude Puel looked on course for two wins out of two at the start of his Leicester tenure but will have been frustrated to see the rangy Crouch steal into space at the near post to nod home Shaqiri’s left-wing corner – the former England international’s 15th top-flight goal as a substitute.
Stoke almost snatched it in the final minute through Kurt Zouma but they had to settle for a point, leaving them four above third-bottom Everton on 12 points, with Leicester one better in 10th ahead of the remaining weekend fixtures.
Shinji Okazaki got his feet in a mess as he failed to connect with Demarai Gray’s chipped cross to the back post with 20 minutes played.
The Japan international got up gingerly from his tumble but there was a man on the field in worse physical condition – referee Robert Madley, who was forced to make way for fourth official Jon Moss due to a calf injury.
Just before the half hour, Stoke forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting latched on to Ramadan Sobhi’s throughball and shifted inside past Harry Maguire before shooting too close to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester made the most of that let-off by taking the lead in the 33rd minute – Iborra reacting sharply to crash a half-volley past Jack Butland when Maguire nodded down Mahrez’s right-wing corner.
The same routine almost worked moments later from the opposite flank and Stoke were rocking as Butland made a superb reaction save to deny Okazaki from Gray’s cross.
Gray supplied the ammunition when Iborra powered the resulting short corner over – the hosts’ approach to marking again somewhat negligent.
As such, Stoke’s beautifully crafted equaliser came hugely against the run of play.
Choupo-Moting clipped a nonchalant pass through Maguire’s legs and Shaqiri guided a left-footed finish past the onrushing Schmeichel, finding the far corner with similar style.
The lively back-and-fourth resumed early in the second half, with Butland pushing over a drive from Mahrez that carried late dip and swerve.
Gray and Mahrez continued to bring greater devilment to the Leicester attack and the wingers combined in the 53rd minute for the Algeria international to arrow a shot narrowly past the far post.
Midfielders on both sides were finding themselves increasingly bypassed as the action streamed up and down, although Stoke’s Joe Allen tore into the box and was unable to convert Choupo-Moting’s cutback.
Schmeichel then saved impressively to deny Ryan Shawcross from a 59th-minute corner. In keeping with the contest, it prompted a goal at the other end.
Wilfred Ndidi punted forward in a challenge with Mame Biram Diouf and Mahrez collected the loose ball on the right, shrugging off Eric Pieters’ feeble challenge before blasting a shot underneath Butland.
It would have marked a damaging reverse for Hughes on the back of Bournemouth’s 2-1 win at this ground last month but Crouch had other ideas in the 73rd minute – leading this fixture towards a now familiar conclusion.
Zouma almost stole the points when he met another Shaqiri corner deep into stoppage time but Schmeichel sprung to his right to save with the final act of the match.
Key Opta Facts:
– This is the third successive Premier League season that this exact fixture has ended in a 2-2 draw.
– Peter Crouch made his 142nd Premier League appearance as a substitute, equalling the competition record held by Shola Ameobi.
– Crouch’s goal was his 52nd headed goal (more than any other player) and his 15th goal as a sub (only three players have more) in the Premier League.
– Riyad Mahrez has been involved in a goal in four successive Premier League matches (two goals, two assists) – the first time he’s managed this in the competition.
– Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal was only the third (of nine in total) that he’s scored inside the box as a Premier League player – the last time he scored a league goal inside the box was back in December 2015.
– Shaqiri has now been involved in 21 Premier League goals (nine goals, 12 assists) – more than double the number of any other Swiss player (Ramon Vega – 10 goal involvements).
– Mahrez has been involved in as many goals in his last four Premier League appearances (4) as he had in his previous 17 games combined.