Michael O’Neill was left counting the cost of an expensive night for Stoke City as they passed up the chance to go second in the Championship in defeat to Cardiff City.
Stoke went down 2-1 to their promotion rivals, surrendering a one-goal lead, missing a penalty and having star man Tyrese Campbell go off injured too.
Campbell forced the own goal that put Stoke in front in the first half but missed chances and the injury to the forward put Stoke on the back foot.
A fluffed penalty in the second half gave the Bluebirds hope and they completed an unikely turnaround thanks to goals from Robert Glatzel and Sean Morrison.
O’Neill made two changes to the side that beat Middlesbrough 1-0 on Saturday, with Tommy Smith and Josh Tymon coming in for Danny Batth and Sam Clucas who both dropped out of the matchday squad.
Cardiff, meanwhile, were unchanged for a fourth consecutive game.
The match started in an attritional fashion, with both sides looking for their centre-forwards to establish a foothold early on.
A potential scare for Stoke was averted early on when Cardiff worked it well and Joe Ralls, playing a fine through ball, teased Joe Bursik out of the penalty area and almost got him in trouble.
Fortunately, referee Tony Harrington saw a foul on Bursik by the Bluebirds’ big striker Kieffer Moore and the danger was over.
Stoke, now dealing with an injury nightmare, were almost forced into a change after eight minutes when Cardiff centre-back Curtis Nelson got a bit carried away and advanced into Stoke’s half and, upon losing control of ther ball, lunged into Nathan Collins.
Surprisingly, Harrington didn’t think it was a foul and after a short stoppage in play Collins was able to get back playing.
Stoke forced the first real opening of the evening ten minutes in when Campbell pounced on an error from Cardiff left-back Joe Bennett and twisted the Bluebirds’ defence inside out before wrapping a fine effort just wide of Alex Smithies’ right-hand post.
An action-packed opening 15 minutes was capped by a half-hearted penalty shout by Campbell, who was the recipient of a cross from Brown after Stoke launched a counter.
Cardiff’s captain, Morrison, used his experience to get across to Campbell and put him off just enough so he couldn’t get a cross away.
There was not enough contact and it was always unlikely to be given.
Cardiff’s first attempt on goal came from Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson, who latched onto a loose ball after James Chester misjudged a header.
The set-piece maestro shot just over but it was a reminder of what he is capable of having put together an impressive highlight reel of goals from range.
Stoke took the lead 25 minutes in, with Campbell – who had been excellent all evening – taking his marker to the byline with a determined run down the right-hand side before fizzing a cross along the goal-line.
Morrison’s experience couldn’t get him out of this one and all he could do was turn home into his own net after Campbell, via a hand from Alex Smithies, gave him no chance.
Cardiff huffed and puffed to find a way back in and almost created an opening but for the defensive diligence of James McClean.
The winger tracked back to divert a header from Wilson at the back post, which was destined for a blue shirt in the box, into the arms of Bursik.
Campbell, who was at the heart of everything good from a Stoke perspective in the first half, fluffed a chance in injury time to double Stoke’s lead when he snatched at a loose ball.
Stoke came out of the changing room for the second half just as they had entered it, beginning the restart brimming with intensity and desire.
McClean hassled and harried Leandro Bacuna, whose good defensive work forced a corner but James Chester nearly doubled Stoke’s advantage from it with a header that bristled the crossbar and went over.
A fast and furious restart saw Stoke dealt another injury blow, miss a penalty and concede an equaliser all in just over 20 minutes.
Campbell limped off down the tunnel ten minutes into the second half, deepening Stoke’s injury crisis although he was walking of his own volition and didn’t appear to need too much help from physios.
Stoke were handed the perfect chance to put the Campbell injury to the backs of their minds when Morrison fouled Nick Powell in the penalty area shortly after.
Alex Smithies saved a tame effort from Campbell’s replacement, Vokes, who went for the bottom left-hand corner but didn’t place his penalty low enough.
Cardiff pounced on their opportunity to get back into the game and duly did, equalising through Glatzel on 66 minutes.
The striker anticipated Collins’ failure to meet a cross at the back post and took a fine touch before finishing into the top corner with aplomb.
Cardiff were not done and Stoke, reeling from the hammer blows of the injury to Campbell, missed penalty and Glatzel goal, switched off at a corner from which Morrison earned himself redemption ten minutes later to equalise.
Joe Bursik – 6
Couldn’t do much about either goal. Dealt with everything else.
Tommy Smith – 6
Plugged away on his return to the side.
Nathan Collins – 6
Shunted into centre-back because of injury to Batth, his mis-timed jump allowed Glatzel to score.
James Chester – 6
Didn’t do much wrong and went close with a header but part of a defensive unit that conceded two at home.
Morgan Fox – 6
Steady game – dealt with the threat of Harry Wilson well.
James McClean – 6
Diligent and hard working as ever but little end product tonight.
Jordan Cousins – 7
Steady game in midfield. Didn’t allow Cardiff much at all.
Josh Tymon – 7
Good performance on his return to the side.
Nick Powell – 7
Won a penalty missed by Vokes.
Tyrese Campbell – 9
Fantastic. You could see how Stoke’s heads dropped once their star man went off.
Jacob Brown – 7
Another hard worker. Needs to provide a real focal point though.
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