Rotherham 2-2 Stoke: Bojan heads dramatic late equaliser at New York Stadium
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 29/09/18 8:18pm
Substitute Bojan scored a dramatic 85th-minute equaliser as Stoke's frustrating start to the season continued with a 2-2 draw at Rotherham on Saturday evening.
The Potters clearly had the edge over their opponents in a tight first half, although there was a plot twist shortly after the restart when Ryan Manning netted for the Millers from the spot (47), before Richie Towell poked a quickfire second (50).
Tom Ince reduced the deficit soon afterwards when he swept home Erik Pieters' low cross (59) and Joe Allen hit the crossbar with a sweet volley, but then former Barcelona playmaker Bojan headed home Benik Afobe's cross to equalise for the visitors.
Rotherham: Rodak (6), Jones (6), Wood (7), Ajayi (9), Mattock (6), Vaulks (6), Williams (7), Manning (7), Towell (7), Newell (6), Smith (6)
Subs: Vyner (6), Taylor (6)
Stoke: Butland (6), Martina (6), Martins Indi (5), Williams (5), Pieters (6), Ince (6), Woods (7), Allen (7), Etebo (6), Berahino (6), Afobe (6)
Subs: Bojan (7), Crouch (n/a), Adam (n/a)
Man of the match: Semi Ajayi
Despite earning a point apiece, the draw leaves Stoke and Rotherham 17th and 18th in the Sky Bet Championship standings respectively, each with a 10-point haul from the first 10 games of the season.
Gary Rowett's struggling side had a point to prove from the first whistle. They enjoyed extended spells of the first period almost exclusively in Rotherham's half, yet Semi Ajayi and Richard Wood defended admirably to dull the threat of Afobe in the Potters' attack.
But 10 minutes prior to the half-time whistle, frontman Afobe had the half's best opening as he majestically leapt above Wood to head Pieters' cross onto the bar.
Manning crashed a shot into the side netting after a careless throw from Jack Butland, but that was the closest the Millers - who lacked both physicality and a cutting edge - came to breaking the deadlock.
That changed inside two minutes of the restart. Ryan Williams was clumsily brought down by namesake Ashley and Manning struck a powerful penalty beyond the clutches of Butland.
Rotherham boss Paul Warne makes two changes from last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, with Joe Newell - who has recovered from a hip injury - and Michael Smith replacing Jamie Proctor and Kyle Vassell.
Stoke also faced Forest in their last outing - albeit in the Carabao Cup in midweek - with just Bruno Martins Indi, Ashley Williams and Saido Berahino retaining their places from the City Ground defeat.
The visitors, understandably bewildered, were soon two behind when Towell poked the ball over the line after Wood had headed a corner goalwards, but they wrestled back control when Ince tucked home Pieters' cross after a slick counter attack.
Allen volleyed onto the crossbar and Rowett, sensing impending danger, threw on experienced pair Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam. And the change invigorated the Potters, who earned a point late on when Bojan switched positions with Afobe and headed the latter's cross beyond Marek Rodak.
Man of the match - Semi Ajayi
The former Arsenal trainee was nothing short of a man mountain for Paul Warne's side on Saturday evening. Time after time he won the battle with Benik Afobe and very rarely put a foot wrong, if at all.
After Stoke's dominance in the first half, it's no understatement to suggest the hosts could have been a couple of goals behind but for Ajayi's interventions and the 6ft 4in defender is proving just why Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr handed him his senior international debut against the Seychelles last month.
Paul Warne: "I thought they performed really well against unbelievavble opposition. I think our lads did us proud so I'm really pleased to come away with a point.
"We said to them at half-time to be a little bit braver on the ball and they'll give you time to be confident. I thought we started the second half really well and probably scored two goals too early, got them angry and they bring on quality players. The lads have given me everything, they are a great group and they are really proud but disappointed they haven't held on to win. We take the point and we go to the next game."
Gary Rowett: "My view is that we've dominated; in the first half we were unplayable at times and Rotherham couldn't stop us. We tried to play Joe Allen into the little spaces that Saido took the full-back out of and we felt we could create some space in those little moments. I said at half-time there's no use doing that for 45, we need to switch it on in the opening moments of the second half. We don't, we concede.
"We've hit the bar, had some other good chances and, of course, Rotherham get back in so deep and it makes it difficult to break them down but to play that way away from home showed what a good side we are."
Rotherham host Bristol City at New York Stadium on Wednesday evening, while Gary Rowett's men welcome Bolton to the bet365 Stadium on Tuesday. Both games are available to watch via the Sky Sports Football red button.