Michael O’Neill talks up Stoke midfielder Mario Vrancic’s ‘great quality’



Posted Thursday, November 04, 2021 by PA

Michael O’Neill talks up Stoke midfielder Mario Vrancic’s ‘great quality’

Michael O’Neill hailed the instant impact of Mario Vrancic after the midfielder helped set up Stoke’s winner at Blackpool with his first touch.

Vrancic was introduced after a goalless first 78 minutes and immediately caused chaos in the hosts’ penalty area with a dangerous free-kick which was volleyed against the post by Harry Souttar and eventually turned home by Steven Fletcher.

It turned out to be all that separated the sides in a hard-fought encounter at Bloomfield Road as the Potters earned a valuable victory which took them into the Championship play-off places.

“Mario is a player who adds great quality whenever he comes on,” O’Neill said.

“When he came on the match was still in the balance but he’s shown again that he’s capable of making a difference.

“It was a great delivery from him and thankfully it’s led to an important winning goal.”

O’Neill’s side started on top, with Fletcher’s early effort deflected off target before skipper Joe Allen fired wide from just outside the box.

Jerry Yates twice came close at the other end and Blackpool had the first opportunity of the second period as Demetri Mitchell’s 20-yard strike was deflected into the grasp of grateful goalkeeper Joe Bursik.

Fletcher continued to prove a threat, curling straight at Dan Grimshaw before setting up Jacob Brown for an effort well kept out by the Blackpool keeper.

And it was the former Sunderland striker who was in the right place at the right time to bundle home a winner which left O’Neill delighted and more than a little relieved following his side sacrificing a three-goal lead in a draw at home to Cardiff on Saturday.

“I knew it wouldn’t be easy for us here tonight,” he said. “Blackpool are a very good team and we knew that.

“They’ve done really well since being promoted and this is definitely a tough place to come.

“They had great backing from their supporters too – they were very noisy.

“It was a bit of a disappointing first-half display from us, but in the second I thought we were dominant and we gave very little away.

“I was after a big reaction from the players after the weekend and I think I got that.

“I thought we did well, and the players showed terrific character and desire throughout.”

Blackpool manager Neil Critchley rued the lapse of concentration which cost his side, who saw their three-match winning run halted.

“I didn’t think there was anything in the game until Stoke scored,” he said.

“There’s fine margins in the Championship, and it’s disappointing when results go against you.

“I thought we did well in the first half, we created some good opportunities and looked a threat.

“Stoke did improve in the second half but I still think the game should have ended 0-0.

“It was a really poor goal for us to concede – a lapse in concentration has proved costly so that’s a big disappointment.

“After that it wasn’t going to be easy to get back in it. Don’t forget Stoke conceded three goals in five minutes at the weekend, so they will have sharpened their senses.

“A bit of better decision-making in vital areas might have helped us but overall, I thought we played OK and it was a performance we can take heart from.”

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