Stoke City 1
Suarez (54), (85)
Perhaps this win has slightly more significance than us just qualifying for the quarter finals of the Carling Cup?
Beating Stoke at Anfield at has been a relatively straightforward exercise over the last few years however, trying to get anything at their place as proved far from easy. When Kewyne Jones nodded in Walters’ cross it looked to be a repeat of the same unsatisfactory story that unravelled when we played Stoke in the league earlier this season ie, plenty of possession and chances only to see our inability to make them tell let the opposition back into the game.
However, not so this time the team showed great fortitude in getting back into the game and the significance of the performance was apparent by the celebrations of both players and manager after the game. “It’s only Stoke” naysayers might say but that is missing the point, would the Liverpool side of twelve months ago have rallied to win having gone one goal behind?
Kenny made eight changes from the Norwich game. In defence Coates, Kelly and Agger replaced Skrtel, Enrique and Johnson. The midfield was all new, Lucas returned from suspension along with Jay Spearing, Henderson and Maxi. Andy Carroll was given the chance to partner Suarez up front.
It looked like Stoke had something in mind for us as the pitch was smaller, the old markings could clearly be seen outside the new ones? Was there another reason for this other than giving Delap not as far to throw? Nonetheless we began well holding Stoke and then taking the game to them. Andy Carroll had a couple of opportunities one from long range which Sorenson struggled to beat away, Suarez, following up, couldn’t make it count. Next Carroll fired straight at Sorensen after Maxi’s effort had been blocked. Later Kelly picked up Spearing’s square ball and again made Sorensen work, this time he was forced to dive to stop his low shot from finding the corner.
However this proved to the Luis Suarez show. Once more he was soon in goal forcing Sorensen to produce a point blank save after really good build up work from Lucas and Maxi. Plenty of chances and, on the face it, we were the better side in the first half which is why it was unfortunate when Coates, on the side line, dwelt on the ball for too long and allowed Walters to cross to Jones who made no mistake with the header. With hindsight perhaps “Row Z” would have been the option but it also perhaps suggests that it will take time for Coates to adjust the pace of the English football, or am I being premature or was our man just being a bit dozy!
Suarez however was not to be denied and after the break picked up Spearing’s cross field ball on the left wing, moved inside, nutmegged Shotton and flashed a pearl of a shot across the face of the goal with enough curve on it to evade Sorenson and creep in just inside the post. It was a sublime effort, worth the admission price, and flew in the face of all the other “easier” chances he had on Saturday.
After that Stoke had nothing of substance to offer and appeared to be playing for extra time or penalties. Bellamy, on for Maxi, exchanged passes with Carroll before rapping Sorenson’s right hand post. However, we eventually got our just desserts when Reina’s kick was cleared and volleyed back by Henderson to Suarez who headed home. Stoke tried to savage the something through a number of corners and Delap’s party piece but it was too predictable and, above all, too late.
Just before the end Suarez hobbled off the pitch hopefully this was nothing more than a knock? We have good replacements if it isn’t, however it will always be a disappointment to not to see this man play.
Stoke: Sorensen, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton (Pennant 60), Woodgate, Whelan, Wilson, Delap, Etherington (Jerome 64), Jones (Crouch 88), Walters Substitutes: Nash, Upson, Diao, Pennant, Palacios, Crouch, Jerome
Liverpool: Reina, Agger, Coates, Carragher (Skrtel 46), Kelly, Maxi (Bellamy 82), Henderson, Spearing, Lucas, Suarez (Kuyt 88), Carroll Substitutes: Doni, Aurelio, Skrtel, Flanagan, Adam, Kuyt, Bellamy