Sheffield Wednesday exited the Capital One Cup at the quarter final stage after a 2-0 loss at Premier League outfit Stoke City.
Despite running their top-flight opponents close overall, Potters winger Ibrahim Afellay lashed in a wicked volley on the half-hour mark to settle the affair at the Britannia Stadium.
Right back Phil Bardsley completed the win for Mark Hughes’ men late in the second half, smashing home a free kick from 25-yards that took a nick off the post on its way in.
Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal made seven changes to his side that sealed a late point at Blackburn on Saturday.
Defenders Tom Lees and Glenn Loovens, winger Modou Sougou and central midfielder Kieran Lee were the only four from Ewood Park to begin the cup-tie, with Joe Wildsmith starting between the sticks.
The hosts started very brightly as they looked to do what Premier League rivals Newcastle and Arsenal couldn’t, which was to find an early goal.
Republic of Ireland international Jonathan Walters fired Stoke’s first warning shot after drilling low to test Wildsmith, but the young shot-stopper comfortably held.
After Stoke lost Peter Crouch to a hamstring injury inside the first 15 minutes, Wednesday went on the offensive and nearly found an opening through Gary Hooper.
Following a one-two with Lucas Joao, Lee burst down the wing before delivering a superb ball into the penalty area – but Hooper couldn’t make a clear connection.
The Potters had seen a fair share of possession in the Wednesday area, and their persistence paid off when former Barcelona wideman Afellay volleyed home from substitute Joselu’s deep cross.
To compound the blow, Wednesday lost the services of defender Lees who was forced off after overstretching for the ball immediately after the restart.
Wednesday emerged from the tunnel after the interval with one change as midfielder Lewis McGugan replaced Jack Hunt.
The visitors created a decent chance through Hooper who watched the ball over his shoulder before trying for the spectacular, but his acrobatic volley whisked just over the crossbar via a deflection.
From one end to the other, the Owls had ‘keeper Wildsmith to thank after the 19-year-old produced a splendid stop with his left leg to keep out Potters striker Joselu before Sougou dived to block Afellay’s follow-up shot.
Growing into the game as the minutes ticked by, substitute Daniel Pudil came close to scoring the elusive equaliser after finding some space inside the penalty area to curl a shot inches wide of Jack Butland’s far post.
Having created some good openings, Stoke showed their resolve under pressure by firing home a second with less than 15 minutes to go.
Winning a free kick on the edge of the box, central midfielder Marco van Ginkel teed up substitute Bardsley who rocketed a low strike past the wall that ricocheted off the post and into the net.
Wednesday: Wildsmith, Hunt (McGugan, 46), Lees (Pudil, 38), Loovens © (Nuhiu, 76), Wiggins, Sougou, Hutchinson, Lee, Wallace, Hooper, Joao