Stephen Ireland hit his first goal since 2011 to secure Stoke City a 2-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in the League Cup on Wednesday.
The midfielder had not found the back of the net for 634 days since scoring for Aston Villa at Chelsea, but he struck in the 22nd minute at Prenton Park to help book Stoke’s place in the fourth round.
Tranmere threatened in the second half as Stoke began to tire, but their finishing failed to test visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, before Peter Crouch added a last-minute winner to put a gloss on the result.
Mark Hughes made seven changes to the side beaten at Arsenal on Sunday with Ireland handed his full debut, and Peter Crouch chosen ahead of Kenwyne Jones in attack. The hosts rested experienced defender Ian Goodison and Joe Thompson, with Ash Taylor and Cole Stockton coming into the side.
The visitors started well and posed more of a threat than their League One opponents, although Owain Fon Williams was not tested until the 20th minute.
Arnautovic and Glenn Whelan sent long range efforts wide of goal, but Crouch did call the keeper into action with a close-range header that Williams saved easily.
However, Stoke soon snatched the lead as Ireland broke the deadlock with his first strike for the club.
The on-loan midfielder received a perfectly weighted pass from Marko Arnautovic inside the penalty area and fired across Williams into the far corner of the Welshman’s goal.
Hughes’ side continued to pressure their hosts and the Austrian threatened again with a low shot that was just wide.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro had Tranmere’s best opening of the half but his effort was deflected wide of Sorensen’s goal.
The Ivorian striker had the first chance after the break but his finishing let him down after excellent approach work. He picked up the ball inside the Stoke half, beat a couple of defenders but could only fire over from inside the penalty area.
Ireland lasted an hour before he was replaced by Oussama Assaidi for his second Stoke appearance after joining on-loan from Liverpool.
The hosts continued to increase the tempo as Hughes’ side began to tire, and in the 68th minute Chris Atkinson should have done better with a good chance.
Ryan Lowe and Akpa Akpro combined well on the edge of the penalty area but Atkinson shot across goal and wide without troubling Sorensen.
Two visiting substitutes nearly combined to secure the victory with seven minutes to play, but Jonathan Walters wasted his first sight of goal.
Assaidi teased the Tranmere defence, beat his full-back on the left-hand side and delivered a perfect cross to the back post but the Ireland international headed over the crossbar.
The Moroccan was causing problems to the hosts and he created Stoke's second goal with the last kick of the game, his cross converted by Crouch to secure their win.
|26||J. Akpa Akpro|
|Coach: R. Moore|
for E. Horwood 46'
for J. Rowe 74'
|Rafinha injury blow for Barcelona|
|Villas-Boas fumes at CSL foreign player crackdown|
|Ibrahimovic invaluable to Manchester United youngsters - Rashford|
|Robben rejected China move|
|A-League review: Phoenix rise to the occasion to end Victory´s streak|
|Van Gaal slams English media over treatment at Manchester United|
|Mignolet: Liverpool in better position to win title than in 2013-14|
|Giroud wants Premier League title but understands China temptations|
|Tianjin forced to scrap moves for Costa, Benzema, Cavani and Falcao|
|My goal was better than Mkhitaryan´s - Giroud|
|Pochettino not interested in Argentina job|
|Kane: Tottenham can win Premier League|
|Corinthians dreaming of Drogba - Paulo Roberto|
|Coutinho calls for Liverpool focus|
|Chiellini compares Pogba to LeBron and Bolt|
|Maradona to become Napoli ambassador|
|Mihajlovic furious after Torino collapse|
|Icardi has offers from China - Wanda Nara|
|Pogba can cope with pressure - Ibrahimovic|
|´My half-time words will stay in the dressing room´ - Montella annoyed with AC Milan|
|Juventus unveil dramatic change to club logo - but not everyone´s a fan|
|´I do not think I will return to coaching´ - Van Gaal set to call it quits|
|Torino 2 AC Milan 2: Bacca caps thrilling comeback as hosts pay the penalty|
|DR Congo 1 Morocco 0: Kabananga pounces on blunder to give 10 men the points|
|´Happy and comfortable´ Sanchez dismisses Arsenal exit talk|
|How much?! West Ham flop Simone Zaza could cost Valencia €20m|
|Mali v Egypt: Salah leads Pharaohs´ bid for AFCON glory|
|Sevilla concede they ´cannot force´ sporting director Monchi to stay|
|Ivory Coast 0 Togo 0: Reigning champions held to opening draw by Adebayor and co.|
|Goalkeeping woes, Stones and tactical confusion - How Guardiola is making life difficult for himself|
|Ozil and Sanchez can be persuaded to stay - Cech|
|Pogba: I rejected Barcelona and Real Madrid|
|Ghana v Uganda: Gyan dreams of first trophy since 1982|
|Chiellini: Juventus a work in progress|
|Robben agrees Bayern renewal until 2018|
|Hazard: Goals do not matter to me|
|Bennell pleads not guilty to eight child sex offences|
|Muller fed up with debate over Bayern role|
|Wenger glad Sanchez is not ´a Costa problem´|
|Flick resigns as DFB´s sporting director|
|Gomis ´can´t wait´ to welcome Payet to Marseille|
|Chinese FA changes foreign player rules after ´irrational´ spending|
|Like father, like son: Justin Kluivert follows in dad´s footsteps|
|´No reason to lose him´ - Marotta rubbishes talk of Allegri exit|
|Courtois: We don´t need Costa|
|Kane: Tottenham players won´t go to China|
|Noble ´angry and disappointed´ with Payet|
|Klopp furious over Matip uncertainty|
|Wenger surprised by tight Premier League|
|´Money is not everything´ - Conte issues warning amid China speculation|
|Fiorentina defeat a ´bad setback´ - Allegri|
|´This will elevate this group of players´ - Sampaoli revels in Sevilla late show|
|WATCH: Rio Ferdinand screams and dances in crazy Man Utd celebration|
|Real Madrid relaxed, admits Zidane after Sevilla defeat|
|Monaco go top of Ligue 1 with stunning Marseille victory|
|Ronaldo equals LaLiga penalty record as Real Madrid lose|
|Sevilla 2 Real Madrid 1: Stunning late comeback ends unbeaten run at 40|
|Fiorentina 2 Juventus 1: Brilliant Viola breathe life into Serie A title race|
|Tunisia 0 Senegal 2: Mane on target as favourites start strongly|
|Mourinho explains Klopp confrontation|
|Klopp delights in Alexander-Arnold display|
|Algeria must cut out mistakes against Tunisia - Leekens|
|Long balls led to Man Utd equaliser, says Klopp|
|´We attacked, Liverpool defended´ – Mourinho insists a point flattered Klopp´s men|
|DR Congo v Morocco: ´Confidence´ the Atlas Lions´ biggest hindrance ahead of AFCON opener|
|Ibrahimovic: Direct tactics worked for United|
|Guardiola rues gap to Chelsea after Goodison mauling|
|Algeria 2 Zimbabwe 2: Mahrez double prevents shock defeat|
|Manchester United 1 Liverpool 1: In-form Ibrahimovic saves hosts|
|Ivory Coast v Togo: AFCON champions hope to tame Le Roy´s ´troublemakers´|
|Guardiola lays City´s mental frailties bare after Goodison rout|
|Koeman hails ´perfect´ Everton after City mauling|
|Nice stalemate gives Monaco chance to go top|
|Guardiola suffers heaviest league loss in Everton thrashing|
|Neymar-esque Zaha is England´s loss – Bolasie|
|Everton 4 Manchester City 0: Koeman leaves old pal Guardiola´s title bid in tatters|
|Matip withdrawn from Liverpool selection over eligibility questions|
|Podolski staying at Galatasaray, insists sporting director|
|Cavani wants PSG stay|
|Torino move feels normal now – Hart|
|Chinese FA changes rule on CSL foreign players - reports|
|Bayern complete swoop for Hoffenheim duo Sule and Rudy|
|Aubameyang: Dortmund not really like Barca, Madrid or Bayern|
|Pogba can chance a game in one second - Herrera|
|Newcastle Jets 2 Perth Glory 2: Keogh´s eighth of season seals draw|
|Klopp: Liverpool ready for Old Trafford test|
|Herrera taunts Liverpool ahead of Old Trafford showdown|
|I had to be 100 per cent to stay at Boca - Tevez|
|No player is bigger than the club - Carroll takes swipe at want-away Payet|
|Icardi: I can always move to China at end of career|
|Mkhitaryan: Klopp convinced me not to join Liverpool|
|Mourinho: Pogba can score every game|
|Cameroon´s profligacy frustrates Broos|