Hull City lost a 14th game from their last 15 away from the KCOM as they were comfortably defeated by Stoke City. Three goals conceded could have been much more as Marco Silva's defence was left with questions to answer once again.
Shaqiri and Arnautovic pull Hull's defence to pieces
Hull are now only one goal short from being recognised as the leakiest defence in the Premier League, conceding 67 from 33 games at an average of over two per match. Silva had been employing two central defenders in recent weeks but the reorganised trio of Michael Dawson, Harry Maguire and Andrea Ranocchia found life difficult against two different Stoke tactics.
Their initial problem came against the creative duo of Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic. The latter could have scored a hat-trick in the first half as his Swiss colleague pulled the strings in dangerous areas. Shaqiri created the first for Arnautovic after just six minutes and the Austrian should have scored again just three minutes later when Shaqiri lofted the ball into his path and Arnautovic beat the offside trap only to blaze over.
Hull's defence simply could not cope with the movement of the Stoke front line that included Saido Berahino who himself had a goal disallowed when he strayed offside. A Shaqiri flick in a deeper position presented another flurry forward, culminating in Arnautovic dragging another effort off target.
Aerial threat produce further problems
The Tigers seemed to eventually grasp the tempo of the game in the second half, dragging themselves back into the contest with a scrappy equaliser. Yet Stoke manager Mark Hughes responded by bringing on the physical and aerial threats of Jon Walters and Peter Crouch. The former immediately forced a save from Eldin Jakupovic before Crouch sent his effort wide on the rebound.
All of a sudden, a Hull defence that had looked shaky on the floor but relatively comfortable in the air were being tested in both areas. It only took nine minutes after their introduction for Walters and Crouch to combine as the latter nodded home after climbing higher than Ranocchia. Hull failed to respond and Shaqiri wrapped up the points with an outstanding effort to net his fourth of the season and a third against Hull.
Back to the drawing board for Silva and Hull as their shaky defence leave them just two points above the relegation zone with only five games left to play.