Seamus Coleman has a habit of creating a stir at Stoke. Last season he scored in a 3-0 win at the Britannia, celebrating becoming a father for the first time in jubilant fashion.
And in his 200th Premier League game he made another telling intervention, albeit with a hint of controversy, as Everton battled back to claim a precious point.
Peter Crouch had claimed the early advantage for Mark Hughes’s side with a straightforward finish after the Everton defence had gone AWOL. But Everton refused to panic in the cauldron-like atmosphere always generated in the Potteries and, having eased their way into the game, Coleman’s shot from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection off Ryan Shawcross and past Lee Grant into the Stoke net.
It was not without controversy with the assistant referee having initially raised his flag for offside against Romelu Lukaku before, ultimately, the right decision was made. In the circumstances, it was a good point, too, Everton’s performance auguring well as they continue to build momentum into the money part of the season.
The form was good for both teams coming in. In their previous nine games at the Bet365 Stadium, Stoke had won four and drawn four, while Everton topped the Premier League form table with 13 points out of the previous five games. “We know it’s always a difficult place to come,” Ronald Koeman acknowledged pre-game. “Stoke have a good team, but we are also strong. Of course, it is always difficult after a break of 10 days but I believe the team is ready and we need to show it and be prepared for a tough evening.”
An early corner for Stoke – which came to nothing when Charlie Adam overhit his kick – emphasised some of the difficulties of facing Stoke and their knack of playing to their strengths. Everton found it difficult to get out of their own half and imbue any fluency into their game in the opening minutes, then found themselves undone by a long ball forward sending Marko Arnautovic clear on the left and into the penalty area. Calmly, he measured his pass into the centre for Crouch to fire the ball beyond Joel Robles in the Everton goal in the seventh minute. His 100th career goal in the Premier League will have ranked among his easiest, too; the defending from Everton non-existent.
Tom Davies, with a touch of ingenuity that had echoes of the move that stunned Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy and left them for dead when he scored against Manchester City, pulled the ball back brilliantly into the path of Coleman who was unable to take it in his stride inside the penalty area or a quick riposte may have been on the cards. Lukaku took aim from range but dragged his shot wide before another long ball by Stoke into the box yielded a header for Crouch at the back post but Robles comfortably made the save. That tough evening the Everton manager had predicted for his team was showing no sign of abating.
Stirred on by the voluble home support, Stoke continued to attack with malevolent purpose. Adam pounced on the loose ball, Arnautovic nodded it on and Crouch was there again with a right-footed volley which veered just wide of the post. Stoke were in their stride, the Toffees getting pulled apart. A couple of forays into Stoke’s half might have resulted in something more than a shot from Kevin Mirallas from a Leighton Baines cross which the Belgian scooped over the crossbar and another shot from Seamus Coleman, set up by Mirallas, which whistled over as well.
Then Stoke bared their teeth again, Adam lofting the ball across the penalty area to Arnautovic who was denied by Robles accelerating off his line and smothering the Austrian’s shot. It was a defining moment in the first half. Morgan Schneiderlin was playing assertively in midfield in his first start for Everton since moving from Manchester United and the Blues were coming more into the game. Mirallas played the ball wide for Coleman on the edge of the Stoke penalty area, the Irishman checked and turned inside Erik Pieters and, on his left foot, fired in his shot which was turned in by Stoke skipper Shawcross. The assistant referee flagged for offside, indicating that Lukaku had strayed beyond the last defender and touched the ball into the net, but after a lengthy inquisition referee Craig Pawson reached the right conclusion and awarded Everton’s equalising goal in the 39th minute.
Stoke might have taken the lead again seconds before the end of the half, but Robles came to the rescue again, storming off his line to save at the feet of Arnautovic after Crouch’s back-heeled pass had deceived the Everton defence. The visitors deserved parity at the interval, but it could have been so different had Robles not proved to be Arnautovic’s conquistador when it really mattered.
The Spanish goalkeeper had to be alert again early in the second half when Adam spotted him off his line and launched a shot from the halfway line which Robles managed to parry to safety after scampering back on his heels. James McCarthy had replaced Mason Holgate at half-time and Everton reverted to a back four. Robles was tested again by Adam when a free kick required a flick behind from the keeper at the expense of another corner which yielded an opportunity for Crouch with a header at the near post which he directed wide.
Ademola Lookman replaced Mirallas in the 69th minute and, within seconds, had forced a fine save by Grant at his near post after a cheeky back-heel from Davies set him up on the left side of the penalty area.
There were golden chances for both sides in the closing stages as debutant sub Saido Berahino’s effort found a way over Robles only for Funes Mori to stop it crossing the line.
And when Coleman’s cross was met by Davies’ bullet header, the teenager thought he had grabbed a late winner. Yet Grant somehow managed to get a hand to it and Lookman’s low drilled effort on the rebound could not be steered home.
Both sides left with a point in what was perhaps a fair result. And with sixth-placed Manchester United also drawing at home to Hull City, ground was not lost on the European berths. Next up for the Toffees are Bournemouth at Goodison on Saturday.