Stoke 3-1 Liverpool Match Report
Liverpool faced a tough Boxing Day fixture away to Stoke who are undefeated at home this season and on a good run of form. Liverpool have had an inconsistent season, but were buoyed by their biggest win of the season at the weekend when they defeated Fulham 4-0 in their final match at Anfield of 2012, and go in to the fixture with confidence.
Brendan Rodgers kept faith in the side that defeated Fulham at the weekend for the visit to Stoke, so Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen had to be content with a place on the bench for the second match in a row. The eleven that started were Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Suso, Gerrard, Lucas, Downing, Shelvey and Suarez.
Liverpool got off to a flying start in the first minute when Suarez was tugged down by Shawcross in the penalty box, referee Howard Webb awarded Liverpool their first penalty in 31 games. Steven Gerrard made no mistake from the spot to give Liverpool the perfect start.
The lead was short lived, when Walters beat Reina after a slip by Martin Skrtel. Worse was to come for Liverpool, when they fell behind 6 minutes later, when Jones headed in from a Cameron corner kick.
Liverpool looked stunned by the quick reversal in the score, and tried to respond. Downing carved out an opening for Gerrard on the edge of the box, but his shot was just wide of the post. Then Suarez exchanged passes with Downing before shooting over the crossbar.
Reina did well to keep the visitors from falling further behind when he raced out to deny Etherington who had found acres of space inside the Liverpool penalty area.
Liverpool’s hopes of a comeback in the second half were dashed in only 3 minutes after the re-start when Jones flicked the ball into the path of Walters who chested the ball down before brilliantly volleying past the helpless Reina.
Liverpool tried to respond to the deficit with endeavour with Suarez looking the most likely and Gerrard trying his instrumental best, but Stoke looked comfortable and organised in defence. Gerrard brought out a fine save from Begovic from an effort from the edge of the box in one of Liverpool’s best efforts of the second half, but the damage was done and Stoke ran out worthy winners in a disappointing result for Liverpool.
I wasn’t surprised that Rodgers kept the same team that defeated Fulham after that impressive performance. But Stoke are not Fulham and I thought we were a bit small in stature to compete with Stoke’s physical approach, the likes of Lucas, Suso and Downing are a bit lightweight and I would have rather seen Henderson in the midfield and Coates in to bolster the defence against the Stoke aerial threat. I think the team were probably shocked to be awarded a penalty as it’s been so long. But after the great start it was so disappointing to lose the lead so soon and to get the stuffing knocked out of us right at the start of the second half was a big disappointment as the game turned into a carbon copy of the Villa match the other week. Enrique didn’t have one of his best games, but he gave everything for the cause. Suarez was once again our main threat but he needs more support against disciplined defences like Stoke. Gerrard played his guts out trying to drag Liverpool back into the game, but he had little help from his troops other than from Suarez. Worrying to see Agger and Skrtel once again being bullied from a couple of average strikers in the form of Walters and Jones, just similar to their inability to handle Benteke against Villa. I can’t understand how Shelvey remained on the park for the full 90 minutes, he was woeful, no effort and gave possession away at every opportunity. It was so disappointing to see the lack of fight against a team that was hungrier than Liverpool and only Enrique, Gerrard and Suarez looked up for the battle.