Stoke City's Bae Jun-ho cheers at Bet365 Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, England in a photo uploaded to Instagram. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Bae Jun-ho followed a long-overdue first Championship goal with a worthy sequel over the weekend, scoring a huge opener for Stoke City in their 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at home. Middlesbrough defender Luke Ayling stumbled against Bae’s quick footwork, allowing the Stoke midfielder to dash past the defense and take a decisive shot from the edge of the penalty box that sped past the goalkeeper and put the ball into the left of the net. “I think he’s doing really well. He’s getting better,” Stoke manager Steven Schumacher said with a smile in an interview ahead of Stoke’s match against No. 3 Leeds United. “Obviously he’s a player who’s got huge talent. It’s easy for us to see that.”
Schumacher, who took the helm of the team at the beginning of the 2023-24 season, has big hopes for Bae. In a post-match interview after Stoke City’s Saturday win, Schumacher said he hoped the goal would boost Bae’s confidence “‘cause we need somebody in the team who’s gonna catch fire, and hopefully it’s him.” With fewer than a dozen games to go before the end of the season, Championship side Stoke City are in a precarious spot. They sit on the edge of relegation to the third-tier League One, which would deal a sizeable blow to a team that’s middled about in the second division since 2018, knocked down after a decade in the Premier League .Despite going six months before getting on the Championship scoresheet, Bae’s new streak could be a turning point for him individually and for the squad fighting to keep its spot on the table.  Schumacher, who has remained steadily upbeat despite Stoke’s inability to escape the bottom of the table and frequently commends his players, has talked up Bae’s talent following the games against Cardiff and Middlesbrough.
“As soon as we came in the building we knew what sort of potential he has,” Schumacher said. “[I]n the final third and in the initial few games, probably just wasn’t making the right decisions or showing enough quality to score the goals that he probably deserved from his performances, but the last couple of games he’s been in the right place at the right time.” Schumacher has also said Bae has a good “football brain” and is a strong and technical player, though he has struggled with communication due to a language barrier, according to local paper Stoke Sentinel .At 20, Bae is one of the team’s youngest players, older than defender Junior Tchamadeu by four months. He came up through the Daegu FC academy and played in the U-20 squad at the 2023 AFC U-20 Asian Cup, reaching the semifinals. After Saturday’s goal, fans compared him to Korean football darling Son Heung-min — which isn’t too far off, given their cheery public-facing personas .He signed with Stoke a week and a half after his 20th birthday from K League 1 side Daejeon Hana Citizen. There, he recorded three goals over 28 appearances and saw the club through its promotion to the K League 1.At Stoke, Bae has so far notched two goals and three assists over 27 appearances, including 16 starts. They next face Leeds United on Tuesday afternoon at Ellon Road in Leeds, England in what’s 토토사이트 expected to be a tough match.