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'
|A-League Review: Victory on the cusp of premiership|
|Newcastle job hardest in football - Carver|
|Diego Lopez a doubt for Milan derby|
|Tevez agent hits out at Boca|
|Mourinho hails ´consistent´ Hazard|
|Arteta: New contract will take five minutes|
|Lopetegui dismisses Real link|
|Ancelotti has no plans to sign new goalkeeper|
|Blanc backs Cavani to respond|
|New York Red Bulls 2 San Jose Earthquakes 0: Hosts stay unbeaten|
|Marseille cannot win title - Bielsa|
|Mourinho feels for Pellegrini|
|Vitoria Guimaraes 1 Sporting Braga 0: Valente header sinks visitors|
|Levante 2 Espanyol 2: Late Victor strike earns struggling hosts a point|
|Football League Review: Middlesbrough edge Norwich in promotion duel, Preston drop points again|
|Nantes 1 Marseille 0: Defensive gaffe leaves visitors´ title challenge in tatters|
|Cambuur 1 Excelsior 1: Record-breaker Ogbeche secures last-gasp draw|
|Eintracht Frankfurt 0 Borussia Monchengladbach 0: Favre´s men held in entertaining draw|
|Arabian Gulf League Review: Al Ain clinch title, Al Jazira humbled by local rivals Bani Yas|
|PSG welcome reduction to Ibrahimovic ban|
|Fournier anticipates improved derby showing from Lyon|
|Anti-Ashley fan protest could inspire Newcastle - Pochettino|
|Toure to stay at City - Pellegrini|
|Newcastle United v Tottenham: Carver pins hopes on Coloccini amid fan boycott plans|
|Manchester City v West Ham: Pellegrini calls for unity|
|Newport terminate Zebroski contract after conviction|
|El Ouriachi nears Stoke switch|
|Inter v Milan: Shaqiri upbeat ahead of first derby|
|Aston Villa v Liverpool: All eyes on Gerrard ahead of Wembley return|
|Sturridge to be given ´every possibility´ to get fit|
|Agbonlahor could make semi-final|
|Simeone: Forget about the Champions League|
|PSG captain Silva to miss Nice game|
|Pellegrini ´not hurt´ by Klopp speculation|
|Mourinho plays down United injury worries|
|A-League Review: Sydney, Phoenix keep hopes up in thrillers|
|Pellegrini fears Kompany´s season may be over|
|Costa in contention for Arsenal clash|
|Title possible but not logical for Van Gaal|
|Iniesta ruled out of Valencia visit|
|Van Gaal searching for answer to United injury ´puzzle´|
|Allardyce backs Koeman for managerial gong|
|Benzema to miss Malaga clash|
|Juventus v Lazio ´a Scudetto game´ - Allegri|
|Guardiola insists he is going nowhere|
|Bolasie worth £20million - Pardew|
|Newcastle fans to feed ducks during Spurs protest|
|Bayern confirm Muller-Wohlfahrt resignation|
|Balotelli most-targeted player for hate crimes on social media|
|Ancelotti: No calls from Manchester City|
|Pardew revels in ´a tremendous season´|
|Watzke hopes for swift Dortmund appointment|
|Atleti a different beast under Simeone, says Forlan|
|Di Maria suspension behind United resurgence, claims Scholes|
|Mertesacker hopes Klopp takes foreign challenge|
|Dyche demands diving answers|
|Skrtel ready for Benteke test|
|Mertesacker: Arsenal should manage Wembley pressure|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Wanderers advance, Palestino miss out|
|New York City 1 Philadelphia Union 1: Another late show frustrates hosts|
|Webb re-elected as CONCACAF president|
|Emery wary of Russia trip|
|Terry ´no chance´ of England return - Capello|
|Fatigue hurt us - Villas-Boas|
|Benitez praises ´spectacular´ Napoli|
|Brugge captain Simons accepts goalless draw|
|Boubacar targets Europa League glory after late leveller|
|Hamsik surprised by Napoli dominance|
|Sevilla 2 Zenit 1: Subs win it for Spaniards|
|Dynamo Kiev 1 Fiorentina 1: Super-sub Babacar saves visitors|
|Club Brugge 0 Dnipro 0: Honours even after absorbing first leg|
|Wolfsburg 1 Napoli 4: Benitez handed perfect birthday present|
|Muller-Wohlfahrt resigns Bayern role|
|Barcelona v Valencia: Leaders primed for stiff La Liga test|
|Fenerbahce win on return after bus attack|
|Ligue 1 to adopt goalline technology|
|Iniesta back in training despite bruising|
|Juventus v Lazio: Replicate Monaco win, urges Pirlo|
|Parma handed further points deduction|
|Wenger surprised by FA Cup scheduling|
|Leicester City v Swansea City: Survival is realistic, says Pearson|
|Everton v Burnley: Dyche wants to play with freedom|
|Ideye a concern for Palace clash|
|Crystal Palace v West Brom: Pulis not surprised by Palace form|
|Chelsea v Manchester United: Leaders attempt to go 10 points clear|
|Stoke City v Southampton: Koeman focused on points not records|
|Rodriguez could play in Southampton´s final game|
|Reading v Arsenal: Wenger talks of lessons learned ahead of FA Cup semi|
|Villa have to prioritise survival over Cup - Vassell|
|Nice v Paris-Saint Germain: Blanc draws a line under Barca defeat|
|Wijnaldum would welcome Van Gaal reunion|
|Championship Preview: Neil wants Carrow Road cauldron, Bournemouth face Wednesday|
|Arsenal defeat to Reading would be astonishing - McLintock|
|Monk flattered by West Ham link|
|Koeman: Clyne right to have Champions League ambition|
|Real Madrid v Malaga: Torres braced for challenging Bernabeu return|
|Oscar wary of United and insists title race is not over|
|Borussia Dortmund v Paderborn: Klopp rubbishes talk of ´farewell tour´|
|Kehl sidelined for two weeks with broken rib|
|Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich: Leaders urged to wake up after Euro defeat|
|Gisdol signs new Hoffenheim deal|
|Deportivo La Coruna v Atletico Madrid: Simeone´s men continue battle for third|
|Lahm plotting Bayern fightback|
|Oscar: Hazard the best in the Premier League|
|Rakitic eager to put on Camp Nou show|
|League Two Preview: Burton on the cusp of promotion|
|Wenger hopeful of Walcott stay|
|Oscar not seeking Chelsea exit|
|Martinez coy on Cleverley link|
|Gomis out for four weeks|
|MLS Preview: Kreis demands ´not so nice´ City|
|Serie A Preview: Abate motivated for Milan derby, Juve face Lazio in table-topping clash|
|League One Preview: Bristol City eye title|
|Bundesliga Preview: Klopp begins long goodbye, Hamburg turn to Labbadia|
|Lambert: Klopp may snub Premier League|
|Perth Glory CEO quits following disqualification|
|Copa Libertadores Review: The Strongest, Santa Fe enjoy wins|
|La Liga Preview: Valencia eye victory over Barca|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Marseille hopeful of top-three finish|
|United States 2 Mexico 0: Hosts scrap to win|
|A-League Preview: Victory close in on Premier´s Plate|
|Markevych: Dnipro can win the Europa League|
|United States 2-0 Mexico: Morris and Agudelo score as Americans scrap for win|
|Dynamo Kiev look for goals against Fiorentina|
|Injuries a concern for Preud´homme|
|Villas-Boas plays down injury worries|
|Benitez wanted Wolfsburg trio|
|Porto quality no surprise to Guardiola|
|Blanc counting on returning stars for second leg|
|Lopetegui issues warning after first-leg victory|