Cup exit for the Millers...
Rotherham United bowed out of the Carabao Cup at the second round stage following a heavy defeat at the hands of Stoke City.
The bet365 Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for the Millers this season, following an opening day league defeat and a much-changed Rotherham side again found themselves second best in Staffordshire.
Sean Morrison’s first goal in Millers was scant consolation as Stoke ran riot for the second time in three weeks.
Boss Matt Taylor made six changes to his starting eleven from the narrow weekend reversal to high-flying Leicester City.
The penalty hero of the first round tie with Morecambe, Dillon Phillips, was named between the sticks.
It was a new look backline with Jamie McCart, Tolaji Bola and Morrison included with the latter taking on the skipper’s armband.
Arvin Appiah was handed his first Millers start following his substitute cameo against the Foxes while Ciaran McGuckin was rewarded for his fine early season form – with his first ever start for the club. The Northern Ireland youth international was asked to partner Jordan Hugill up-front.
The Millers travelled to Staffordshire looking for progression to the EFL Cup third round for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. The last time they reached this stage and beyond, they ironically lost out to Stoke after dumping out Sheffield Wednesday, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton en-route to round four.
The Millers will not have had good memories of their recent visit to the bet365 Stadium and history repeated itself when Stoke struck early with their first attack of note on two minutes.
The Potters switched play to great effect and Ki-Jana However swung over a tantalising centre which was only half-cleared by a retreating Rotherham defender and Wouter Burger – in his first Stoke start following a summer move - returned the shot with interest with a well-struck left-footed drive which fizzed off the bet365 Stadium surface. Phillips appeared to temporarily lose the ball in the air, and he was deceived as the ball found the heart of the Millers goal.
The signs were ominous for the Millers and McCart had to be on his toes to hack clear from near his own goal following Hoever’s pull-back before Tyrese Campbell almost sneaked in around the back of the Rotherham rearguard, moments later.
In the visitors’ first forays, Andre Green failed to make the most of an opening before Bola skipped around his marker to deliver a centre with his weaker-right foot, but Hoever diverted the ball away from Green with a timely header at the far post.
Nevertheless, Stoke appeared to take a firm grip on the tie when they doubled their lead as early as the 18th minute.
Mehdi Leris skipped to the touchline to pick out Ryan Mmaee, who got the ball under his spell with his first touch, before striking an effort which arrowed into the far corner of the Millers net giving Phillips no chance.
However, Stoke’s joy proved short-lived as Rotherham halved the deficit almost immediately.
The Millers forced a corner and Cafu – with his trademark delivery – planted a lovely centre to the near post, and Morrison got a run on his marker, and almost ghosted in unnoticed to power a point-blank header into the roof of the Stoke net.
Any hopes of a Rotherham fightback were extinguished when Stoke regained their two-goal advantage near the half hour mark.
A hopeful ball into the box looked innocuous enough but Morrison failed to clear the danger with a header straight into the path of Potters skipper, Josh Laurent, who weighed up his options on the edge of the box before curling a delightful right-footed effort which beat the outstretched hand of Phillips to find the far corner of the visitors goal.
Things almost got worse for Taylor’s men when Campbell shrugged off Bola far too easily in the box before finding Leris, just yards out, but the home player was unable to divert his effort goalwards.
Bizarrely, the Millers almost found another way back into the game when Bola forced a corner and Cafu, once again, was pinpoint in his set=piece delivery to find the run of Green, who looked set to tap home from close range, but the summer recruit failed to make a telling connection and the chance was lost.
The game was as good as over – just shy of the break – when Stoke added a fourth goal.
The home side turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye when Mmaee lofted a ball up field and Campbell found himself in acres of space. The Stoke forward advanced with purpose to the edge of the box, and he got the better of a one-on-one situation with McCart to work a shooting position, and he duly obliged to curl a left-footed effort which dipped over Phillips.
Half-time: Stoke City 4 Rotherham United 1
The Millers were effectively playing for pride in the second 45 and after Ben Wilmot was carded for bringing down McGuckin, the Rotherham youngster slipped in Green – who had a sight of goal - but Jack Bonham stood up to tall to deny him.
Stoke, arguably, made a slow start to the half but further salt was rubbed into Rotherham wounds when sub Ollie Rathbone misjudged a header and firstly, Campbell capitalised to loft the ball forward and Laurent showed good technique to execute a powerful shot which rifled into the Rotherham net.
The Millers were finding the going tough but Tom Eaves almost made an immediate impression from the bench but his speculative effort failed to trouble the Stoke goal before fellow sub Fred Onyedinma almost continued his purple patch in front of goal with a low drive which was arrowing into the bottom corner until Bonham’s late intervention.
The night was going from bad to worse for the Millers when Stoke notched a sixth goal with 18 minutes remaining.
Laurent turned provider this time with a clipped ball over the top of a square Rotherham defence and Leris made no mistake to power home from just inside the box.
The final whistle couldn’t come quick enough for the Millers and McCart prevented a home seventh with a well-timed clearance as sub Dwight Gayle looked a certain scorer from Leris’ assist before Leris, himself, flashed a shot wide from Hoever’s touchline cross.
Full-time: Stoke City 6 Rotherham United 1
Stoke City 6
Rotherham United 1
Teams: Stoke- Bonham, Hoever, Rose, Wilmot (McNally 58), Tymon, Pearson (Thompson 58), Laurent, Burger (Jojic 73) , Campbell (Sidibe 64), Leris, Mmaee (Gayle 46). Unused- Fielding, Stevens, Johnson, Wesley.
Rotherham- Phillips, Bramall, McCart, Morrison, Bola, Green (Blackett 68), Humphreys (Tiehi 46), Cafu (Rathbone 46), Appiah (Eaves 56), Hugill (Onyedinma 49), McGuckin. Unused- Johansson, Lembikisa, Kayode, Douglas.
Referee- M Salisbury
Attendance- 9410 (189)