Stoke Thriller Ends Goalless
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 13 Dec 2015 15:20:00
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It has now been three consecutive draws for West Ham United after a were held at home by Stoke city on Saturday afternoon.

With Winston Reid and Victor Moses both missing through injury, Slaven Bilic made two changes to his starting line-up, as James Collins filled in at centre-back, while Michail Antonio made his long-awaited debut since joining from Nottingham Forest in the summer.

After a quicker than expected recovery from an ankle injury, Enner Valencia was named on the bench.

Desperate to get back to winning ways, the home side started the game on the front foot and could have gone ahead as early as the third minute but Jack Butland did well to save a 25-yard effort from Cheikou Kouyate.

Antonio went even closer a minute later, but his powerful shot was comfortable for the Stoke goalkeeper.

Stoke went close to opening the scoring on 11 minutes, when  Marco van Ginkel tried his luck but saw his shot go inches wide of the post.

Collins had the better of Ibrahim Afellay in the opening stages and on 17 minutes, as the Welshman produced a superb block to deflect his effort over the bar.

Antonio was really making the most of his chance to impress and on 24 minutes, he showed his pace to run past Erik Peters into the box but couldn't apply the finishing touch.

Two minutes later, Butland was out quickly to stop Andy Carroll getting on the end of Alex Song's through ball.

The Potters went close again on 29 minutes, when Marko Arnautovic struck the post, after being set up by former West Ham defender Glen Johnson.

The hosts thought they should have been awarded a penalty after captain Mark Noble was brought down by Ryan Shawcross after receiving the ball from Aaron Cresswell's cross in. Referee Andre Marriner was unmoved, despite loud appeals from the majority inside the ground.

The whistle blew for half-time and the deadlock was still to be broken.The home side were dictating the play at the start of the second-half and could have made the breakthrough on 56 minutes but Antonio couldn't get his header on target.

After waiting so long to make his debut, Antonio was in no mood to waste his chance and on the hour, went close again but Butland was able to save easily from the winger's close range header.

Three minutes later, Bilic made his first change, as Song was withdrawn and Valencia replaced him.

Seconds after Kouyate had been booked for a challenge on Jeff Cameron, the Hammers survived an Almighty scare when Arnautovic saw his freekick hit the bar.

On 71 minutes, Mauro Zarate played in Noble but the skipper dragged his effort wide.

Six minutes later and Butland produced a save to divert Aaron Cresswell's cross out for a corner.

On 79  minutes, Mame Biram Diouf was through on goal and Adrian made a superb save with his legs to prevent a certain goal.

The chances kept on coming as the game went from end to end. On 81 minutes, Zarate created space for a shot but saw his effort come back off the post.

Bilic brought on Nikica Jelavic for Antonio, on 83 minutes in an effort to see his side grab a late winner.

Butland managed to get a hand to Valencia's freekick on 86 minutes to keep scores level as the game entered the closing stages.

Adrian made another superb save from Diouf just seconds later, as both sides were pushing for a winner.

Even with four minutes of injury time signalled, it was still relentless. The Hammers saw the ball cleared off the line twice in quick succession when James Tomkins and Kouyate tried to squeeze the ball past Butland to no avail.

After all that drama, the home side had to settle for consecutive goalless draws.

West Ham start their busy Christmas programme off next Sunday looking for a first win at The Liberty Stadium as they take on Swansea City.

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