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'
|Wisdom joins West Brom on loan|
|Bundesliga to consider vanishing foam|
|Five-man shortlist for Ivory Coast|
|´Personal issues´ keep Gervinho away from Roma tour|
|Jedinak raring to go|
|Borini set for Liverpool stay, claims agent|
|Koeman: No bids for Lovren|
|Livermore: England hopes shouldn´t hinge on club side|
|MLS Preview: Tough tests for Conference leaders, Revolution still struggling|
|Mathieu not Barca material, says Marquez|
|West Brom claim unimpressive win in Sacramento|
|Neymar: Brazil behind Germany, Spain|
|Vietnamese police confirm match-fixing players|
|Lucescu blames Joorabchian for AWOL players|
|Robinho undecided on future|
|Rush: Still years left in Gerrard|
|Tiago re-signs with Atletico|
|Puyol against Spain overhaul|
|Agger considering his Liverpool future|
|Peruvian Primera Division Review: Juan Aurich bounce back, Melgar draw with Inti Gas|
|Bayern deny interest in Cuadrado|
|New signings on show in Hull double-header|
|Hooiveld strike sinks Swindon|
|Costa departs Valencia|
|Morata suffers knee injury in training|
|K.League Preview: Seoul, Sangju aim to close gap to sixth, Ulsan host Jeonbuk|
|Lewandowski off the mark on Bayern bow|
|Gerrard retirement will boost Liverpool - Carragher|
|World Cup bidding report due in September|
|Evra bids emotional farewell to United fans|
|J.League Preview: Ventforet Kofu look to escape drop zone, Sagan Tosu battle Kawasaki Frontale|
|Salah spared military service|
|Garcia would welcome Torres return|
|Livermore understands Ince decision|
|Cole happy to get away from English press|
|Evra seals Juve switch|
|Bayern stay was Kroos´ ´priority´|
|Scuffet: Udinese right place to continue developing|
|Gerrard retires from England duty|
|Ambitious Pochettino targets title|
|Aspas eager to put ´bad season´ behind him|
|Atletico Mineiro v Lanus: Visitors out to recover from first-leg loss|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Sligo, Inter Baku out to finish shocks|
|Hughes expects Bojan decision soon|
|Cech on the mend - Holland|
|Pardew eager to honour crash victims|
|Prandelli hits back at critics|
|Negredo breaks metatarsal|
|Rooney eager to impress Van Gaal|
|Palacios´ Qatar move falls through|
|Wenger rules out striker signing|
|Six Shakhtar players refuse to return|
|Six Vietnamese footballers arrested for match fixing|
|Copa Libertadores Preview: Nacional Asuncion, San Lorenzo to host first legs|
|Mata hopeful of title|
|Napoli bullish about Scudetto chances|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Patriotas Boyaca, Deportes Tolima start with wins|
|Subotic thrilled to be back|
|Germain: Monaco can replace Rodriguez|
|Sullivan confident of Carroll improvement|
|Callejon staying put|
|DC United 3 Chivas USA 1: DC end Chivas´ winning run|
|Liga MX Review: Goalkeeping howler costs champions Leon, Monterrey move top|
|Chilean Primera Division Review: Huachipato, Santiago Wanderers opening-day winners|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Internacional rout Flamengo, Cruzeiro win again|
|Prosinecki keen on South Korea job|
|Woodward promises new United signings|
|Chelsea´s Omeruo set for Middlesbrough return|
|Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Review: Lesotho, Congo, Benin take first-leg leads|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Deportivo Cuenco shock leaders Emelec, Independiente held|
|Rodriguez spotted in Madrid|
|Niang and Mastalli earn Milan win|
|Jutkiewicz at the double in Burnley rout|
|Crouch denies Gladbach victory|
|Hertha lead Biermann tributes|
|Vidic makes Inter bow in narrow victory|
|Rodriguez eager to leave Atletico|
|Thai Premier League Review: Buriram fail to close gap on Muang Thong, Chonburi gain ground|
|CSL Review: Guangzhou R&F take advantage as rivals Evergrande are held|
|Juventus and Lazio hold Astori talks|
|Lewandowski and Contento back in training|
|Sunderland target Borini joins Liverpool squad for US tour|
|K.League Review: Jeonbuk hammer Sangmu, Steelers march on|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Buckley warns St Pat´s, Celtic primed to progress|
|Giaretta reveals Pereyra in demand|
|Kramer confirms Napoli talks|
|Nedved insists Juve key men going nowhere|
|Barton is a manager in the making - Redknapp|
|Monk unfazed from friendly setback|
|Holland: Lukaku not set to leave Chelsea|
|Debut nerves for Lambert|
|Woodward: Van Gaal will make United an attacking force|
|MLS Review: Sporting KC win again, Toronto held|
|Wenger: I´ll talk to Wilshere|
|Redknapp almost retired|
|Allardyce: Home form key for West Ham|
|Luis Enrique: ´We can´t draw conclusions yet´|
|Liverpool agree to sell Borini to Sunderland|
|Late Falque penalty spares Spurs blushes|
|Besler, Zusi agree Sporting KC contracts|