Reds ride the “rucks” and “mauls” to win through!

FA Cup Sixth Round

Liverpool 2
Suarez (23), Downing (57)

Stoke City 1
Crouch (26)

It seemed rather irrelevant to consider this game in the light of events at White Hart Lane, hence no pre match review yesterday.

Sadly Liverpool Football Club is all too familiar with the tragedy that FA Cup can bring. Hopefully Bolton Wanderers, their players and fans, and more specific Fabrice Muamba’s family, won’t be subjected to similar feelings about the competition?

Hopefully Muamba will make a recovery. Whether or not he recovers sufficiently to play football again isn’t the issue, it’s more a case of let’s just hope he recovers, it’s sobering and frightening that what happened on Saturday can happen to someone so young. Thoughts are with Fabrice Muamba and hoping he will pull through and that his families’ worries will be eased soon.

It’s a sharp twist but I don’t really know how to move this on in an easy way, except to say, to yesterday’s game.

Prior to this having won the clubs first silverware since 2006, and being two games away from the chance to win some more, Kenny Dalglish was forced to defend accusations about the club not making progress. It seems the emphasis has changed. Progress is only measured in terms of the league and for us Champions League qualification? Nothing else matters the “feel good factor” bought by progress in competitions such as the FA and Carling Cup’s is a quick and dirty liaison compared to the rock steady relationship that the Champions League offers. Dalglish responded

“People should take an intelligence check. All we have said is we want to move the club ¬forward. Everybody will have a different perspective and will move the goalposts to judge whether it’s ¬moving forward or not. Whether it’s points, ¬position in the league, ¬trophies or whatever, they are going to have their own agenda and how they ¬define it. You can never get it 100 per cent correct.”

Prior to the game Five Live’s Alan Green, after his usual self regarding, spiteful, harangue about anything that riles him, stupidly suggested that Kenny had tried to be “too clever” with the media tried to take them on and was reaping the repercussions via questions such as this. There you go Kenny, that’s you told and put in your place next time just tug your forelock, be ever so humble and don’t offer an opinion as, in Green’s book, it’s too subversive!

Perhaps Green should take an “intelligence check” although having had to endure his tedious nonsense for what seems likes a lifetime every time I switch on the radio perhaps he should just take a cheque… and go!

Anyway, and this is the best possible response to such drivel, I’m pleased to report that there’s more progress made. Another cup semi final after a hard fought victory. This was a performance that certainly didn’t live up to Tuesday’s however, it was enough.

Stoke and their fans seem to take perverse delight in the rough and ready “rugby” reputation that’s, rightly or wrongly, has been foisted on them, even to extent of signing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. However although such tactics can be effective after the initial blow or two, perhaps more is needed in the locker? This seemed to be the case today, after a spirited response to Suarez’s opener and an equaliser, whose conversion lived up their reputation, we came back, via Stuart Downing’s goal. Stoke couldn’t respond effectively, once they’d played the “rugby card” and found it trumped they had not real or meaningful alternative to offer.

We had a sluggish start in which we had enough possession but no accompanying creativity however Suarez finally sparked things into life. He exchanged a one two with Maxi in the middle of the field and rushed on to plant a low hard shot into the bottom corner of Sorensen’s goal.

It was the perfect opening however Stoke’s response was immediate and saw them force a series of corners. The second saw Shawcross glance it away out of danger however, incorrectly, Stoke were awarded a third. Etherington sent it over we made a right hash of it allowing Crouch to evade a static Andy Carroll and head home. Having been awarded the corner incorrectly the referee was on a run and failed to notice that Reina was being impeded by Shotton as it was taken. Fair game or blatant obstruction? The penalty area is Reina’s “manor” and surely he should have bossed it rather then let Shotton take such a liberty however, the referees’ inclination always seems to be to protect the keeper?

Stoke sensed their chance but didn’t take it Walters found himself in on goal after Whitehead’s pass however the shot was wild and wide. A bad miss leaving it all square at half which, on the whole was fair

In the second half we were better. Suarez flicked Downing’s free kick across the face of goal when perhaps it was easier to hit the target and Gerrard also had a long range well saved. Then came Stuart Downing’s moment. In a season of unfulfilled promise it was bound to happen sometime, somewhere and thankfully it was a decisive moment. Cutting in front the right he exchanged a one two with the back of Gerrard’s heal, took it on and smashed it past Sorensen.

After that we seemed to settle Kuyt and Spearing went close and although Stoke tried to get back, via Delap’s touch line party piece and the usual dead ball stuff, we held firm.

After the game Kenny praised Downing as if he knew attention would be focused on his lack of form to date. He also commented on the fact that at Wembley we may well face Everton in the semi final if they overcome Sunderland

“Whoever we get it’s going to be tough, Merseyside will be hoping Everton get through and they can all have a day out again but it is a real difficult place to go and get a result at Sunderland. But that is not our problem – that is theirs to sort out.”

Correct, as too is the “problem” of interpreting “progress” in some people’s minds!

Liverpool: Reina, Jose Enrique, Carragher, Kelly (Coates 89 ), Skrtel, Gerrard, Maxi (Kuyt 61 ), Downing, Spearing, Suarez (Henderson – 89′ ), Carroll Substitutes: Doni, Coates, Flanagan, Henderson, Adam, Shelvey, Kuyt,

Stoke City: Sorensen, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Shotton (Pennant 61), Whelan, Wilson, Whitehead (Delap 74), Etherington (Jerome 72), Walters
Crouch Substitutes: Nash, Upson, Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Jones, Jerome

Att: 43,962

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