After a good start to the season for Liverpool it was off to Stoke for a very difficult away fixture. Liverpool last won away to Stoke in the League Cup in November of 2000, when they won 8-0. But Stoke have come a very long way from then. Stoke represent one of the toughest away fixtures in the season nowadays with their direct approach. Liverpool knew that they would have to battle hard and defend well to gain anything from this game. But Liverpool have more options now to combat any team with their business in the summer, and with their confidence high.
Dalglish only made one change to the side that beat Bolton, with Martin Skrtel coming in for the recovering Martin Kelly. Skrtel’s height would be advantageous for defending Stoke’s long ball approach. Adam joined Lucas again in the centre of midfield after missing the Scotland game midweek. Suarez and Kuyt led the front line. Liverpool had a strong bench too, with new signings Coates and Bellamy keeping Carroll, Spearing, Maxi, Doni and the fit again Johnson company.
Liverpool started the match well, taking the game to their hosts, and Suarez came close twice inside the first four minutes. Then Skrtel teed up Suarez on the edge of the box from a corner, but his effort was blocked. Liverpool were totally in control in the early stages, but then in the 21st minute Liverpool were stunned when Stoke took the lead via a penalty.
A through ball into the Liverpool penalty area saw Carragher and Walters come together as they challenged for the ball, resulting in the Stoke man hitting the turf. Referee Clattenburg pointed to the spot without hesitation. Walters himself, smashed the ball past Reina giving Stoke the lead totally against the run of play.
Moments later Kuyt’s cross was flapped by Begovic falling to Suarez but his half volley was superbly blocked by Shawcross. Liverpool kept up the pressure with Stoke getting numbers behind the ball. Skrtel blazed an effort over from the edge of the box, and then Suarez turned brilliantly in the box but his shot was easily saved by Begovic as the first half ran out.
Liverpool started the second half the way they ended the first, with Lucas having a shot deflected wide after a great move. Then on 61 minutes Enrique sent Henderson through on goal, but his first two efforts were saved by Begovic before his third was blocked by Shawcross, then Adam was thwarted by Wilson and then Begovic as Stoke’s goal lived a charmed life. Dalglish sent on the cavalry in the form of Bellamy and Carroll for Henderson and Kuyt. Bellamy looked lively instantly and linked up with Suarez who’s shot was deflected behind.
Then Liverpool took a short corner on the right which Downing cut into the box from but he shot wildly over. With time running out Liverpool felt aggrieved when Upson looked to have handled a cross which resulted in Suarez seeing a yellow card for protesting too strongly. Then in the last minute former Red Crouch went up with his goalkeeper Begovic and the ball fell to Suarez just inside the box but he shot agonisingly wide of the post. It really was amazing how Liverpool failed to score in this game and they will go home very frustrated to lose this match.
I couldn’t believe Liverpool lost this match with the chances we had. I thought the way we restricted Stoke to only a few corners and corner kicks proves how well we played and how well Kenny’s tactics worked. I just felt it was one of those days where nothing went for us. OK Carragher was caught wrong side of Walter but that is one of the softest penalties you will see all year, if anything Walter fouled Carra initially before Carra put his arm across him, but Walter went down so easily. The referee is getting a lot of stick, and like I say he got the penalty wrong and I felt he could have gave the Liverpool players a bit more protection with some of the tackles the Stoke players were producing, but he must have left most of his cards at home. We had a few appeals for penalties but I thought they would have been soft too. Only criticism of our team was we passed the ball poorly at times with Adam in particular guilty. But overall we played well but lady luck wasn’t smiling, so we can take a lot of positives away from this match if not any points.
Man Of The Match – Lucas – I thought he was superb once again, passing superbly and breaking up so many
Stoke attacks, tremendous work rate.
written by Jamie McLaughlin website at www.anfieldnews.com