Stoke City’s under-23 side progressed to the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup thanks to a brilliant 4-1 win over Southampton at Clayton Wood.
Gabriel Kyeremateng netted a hat-trick and Andre Godfrinne completed the scoring as Stoke sealed their progression from Group E with a match to spare.
German forward Kyeremateng opened the scoring in the fifth minute; evading the offside trap to chest Ryan Corrigan’s cross and fire home from six yards.
Knowing that they required just a point to progress City made a blistering start and 10 minutes later they doubled the scoring.
Jake Dunwoody’s shot was parried into the path of Godfrinne by Jack Bycroft and in his attempts to gather the ball, the ‘keeper brought the striker down. Kyeremateng stepped up to the ball and sent Bycroft the wrong way.
The visitors pressed in their pursuit for a way back into the game and Stoke were grateful for strong defending by both Cameron McJannet and Will Forrester to keep their clean sheet intact ahead at half-time.
Kyeremateng’s hat-trick was completed in the 49th minute. Dunwoody played a delicious defence-splitting pass with the outside of his boot and whilst Kyeremateng’s initial shot was saved, the 20-year-old made no mistake with the rebound.
The Saints could feel a little aggrieved to find themselves three goals behind and Jacob Maddox saw a free kick tipped over the bar by Blondy Nna Noukeu before netting a lifeline with a brilliant finish that whistled into the roof of the net.
With more than half an hour remaining, the match was back in the balance and centre back Forrester was on hand to clear the danger on more than one occasion before Stoke broke to seal the win quarter of an hour from time.
Tre Pemberton put in a low cross from the right wing and Godfrinne got ahead of his marker to lash the ball home from close range and score his first goal for Kevin Russell’s side.
The game had been scheduled to take place at Leek Town but was changed to Stoke’s training ground due to weather conditions – and was played out behind closed doors.
The win means that Friday’s final tie at home to group leaders Bournemouth means little, with Stoke now guaranteed second position.
Stoke City: Nna Noukeu, Pemberton, Corrigan, Wara, Forrester, McJannet, Dunwoody (Malone 72), Sorensen, Kyeremateng, Jarrett (Porter 56), Godfrinne. Unused: Macari, Cooper, Jennings.
Southampton: Bycroft, Kpohomouh, Ledgwidge, Bailey, Tchaptchet, Olafunwa (Otseh-Taiwo 46), Maddox, Lankewitz, N,Lundulu (Mitchell 70), Chauke, Defise (Robise 75). Unused: Scott, Rus.