Stoke City manager Alex Neil gestures on the touchline during the Sky Bet Championship match at bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
08 October 2022

Alex Neil salutes ‘incredible’ Phil Jagielka after victory over Sheffield United

08 October 2022

Alex Neil hailed Phil Jagielka as “incredible” after the 40-year-old inspired Stoke to a 3-1 victory over his former club Sheffield United.

The veteran defender scored one and set up another as Stoke secured a first home win under new boss Neil since his arrival from Sunderland.

Jagielka crossed for Ben Wilmot’s early opener and then scored his first goal since April 2019, either side of Rhian Brewster’s leveller for the Blades. It was the first time in the former England international’s career that he had recorded a goal and an assist in the same game.

And an impressive afternoon for the Potters was capped by Manchester City loanee Liam Delap’s first goal for the club.

Neil was full of praise for Jagielka’s impact, saying: “Incredible, when you look at (the 1-1 draw at) Burnley and you look at today, he’s fundamental to getting points out of those two games.

“Anybody who plays at that age is incredible. He’s a year younger than me and I’m looking thinking I couldn’t last 10 minutes, never mind back-to-back 90 minutes.

“He’s a top player. What he’s got is enthusiasm for the game, he reads the game very well and he’s got understanding – tactically he’s brilliant.

“He spreads messages on the pitch for you, he’s good on the ball. The only difficulty is that I wish I had him five years ago.”

Neil added: “It was a good performance from the lads. All the credit should go to the players.

“It’s not easy playing Sheffield United, in fact we prepared for three different shapes today.

“They changed their shape during the game and switched to a diamond, but I think that shows our players’ intelligence with how we coped with that. I thought the players did it remarkably well.

“We’ve started well in games and then the opposition usually scores, but thankfully today we got away with it.

“But I thought we were a constant threat throughout the game.”

Sheffield United saw their winless run stretch to three league games, but they remain top of the Championship thanks to Norwich’s loss to Preston.

Boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “It’s not like I can argue with the result. The third goal was harsh on the lads in terms of how we battled, but we didn’t create enough.

“We knew we’d be more open and we’d have to accept we wouldn’t be as strong defensively with the personnel we put out there.

“It was a bit of a basketball game, end to end. We missed our big chance early on and they scored straight after.

“We gradually settled down into the game and got the goal, but the second goal was a shocking time to concede.

“They’re both set-plays, which is disappointing from our point of view. We got back into it and the second half we had a go and battled, but I didn’t feel there was a goal in us.

“We prepared for Stoke playing three in the back. We couldn’t set up defensively, so it was a case of seeing who was the best attacking team.”

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