West Brom 1 Stoke City 2 match report: Pepe Mel in limbo after signing off with a whimper
Adam struck for the Potters with three minutes remaining
Sunday 11 May 2014
If this proves Pepe Mel’s swansong as West Bromwich Albion manager, it was a suitably downbeat farewell. Charlie Adam’s 87th-minute winner for Stoke City may not have come as late as those injury-time equalisers against Cardiff City and Tottenham but for the Hawthorns faithful it was one final disappointment and the subsequent sight of a three-quarters empty stadium as Mel and his squad embarked on a low-key lap of appreciation provided a fitting motif for a shambolic season – especially given two players, Stéphane Sessègnon and Youssouf Mulumbu, neglected to actually join in.
It was some contrast with their send-off 12 months ago when Albion celebrated an eighth-placed finish with that thrilling 5-5 draw with Manchester United. A year on, they had scraped survival in 17th and doubts cloud the future of Mel, who confirmed he would be meeting chairman Jeremy Peace for talks “in the coming days”.
Asked what he expected from those talks, the Spaniard replied: “I don’t know – I need to hear what the chairman wants for the future. Ten players are out of contract, we need at least eight or nine to come in. West Brom have to decide whether or not they want to have another season with as many problems as this one.”
Mel warrants sympathy after being thrown into a relegation fight in January with no prior experience of English football after Steve Clarke’s sacking and he has had plenty to cope with – from the Anelka “quenelle” saga, to the ill-judged sale of Shane Long, to dressing-room bust-ups.
For Stoke, by contrast, this has been an impressive first season under Mark Hughes, with Sunday’s victory ensuring they finished ninth – their best top-flight placing since 1975. “To get 50 points on board in the hardest league in world football is a huge achievement for a club like Stoke,” said the Welshman.
Stoke underlined their transformation into a passing team as they had Albion chasing shadows in the first half. Two of their most impressive performers combined for the opening goal as Steven N’Zonzi played in Marko Arnautovic on the left and his cutback was turned into his own goal by Gareth McAuley.
The biggest cheer from the home fans in the first period came when McAuley left a foot in on Peter Odemwingie – booed throughout on his Hawthorns return. An improved second-half display brought a sidefooted equaliser from Sessegnon, but after Arnautovic and Mulumbu had hit a post at either end, substitute Adam had the last word with a fine angled strike from 25 yards.
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