Huth rescues Stoke late on
Robert Huth`s 90th minute equaliser earned Stoke a battling draw against Liverpool. The German turned in a Matthew Etherington corner at the far post to cancel out Sotirios Kyrgiakos goal for the visitors. Dirk Kuyt hit the post in added time as both sides attacked for a winner.
Tony Pulis made two changes from the side that beat Fulham two weeks ago. Thomas Sorensen returned from a finger injury and took his place in goal ahead of Steve Simonsen and Salif Diao returned to play against his old club in place of Liam Lawrence. Tuncay passed a fitness test on a hamstring injury he picked up against Fulham, he partnered Mama Sidibe upfront with Ricardo Fuller sitting on the bench.
There was however the notable absence of James Beattie who`s Potters career is now hanging in the balance.
Liverpool named 6 Defenders in their starting team and they were also without key players such as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Glenn Johnson and Yossi Benayoun. New signing Maxi Rodriguez sat amongst the inexperienced substitutes that included £20 million man Alberto Aquailani.
Stoke were the quicker out of the blocks and immediately applied pressure on a fragile Liverpool defence. Rory Delap had an early throw that went past everyone and forced an excellent save from Pepe Reina in the Reds goal.
Liverpool looked shaky in possession and striker David Ngog struggled early on when under pressure from Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. Tuncay then fired an effort wide as he and Matthew Etherington started to combine down the left hand side.
Liverpool then began to wake up and started to attack the Potters defence directly. Lucas had a deflected effort saved but then later on broke into the box and was hauled down by Danny Higginbotham. Liverpool claimed for a penalty but referee Lee Mason made the first of many errors by giving Stoke the benefit of the doubt and booked Lucas for diving.
Stoke`s early momentum was fading as both Rory Delap and captain Abdoulaye Faye pulled up injured. Both were forced off as Lawrence replaced Delap and Wilkinson replaced Faye with Huth moving across to centre-half.
The clearly affected the Potters way of play as both Dean Whitehead and Salif Diao struggled in their midfield battle against Lucas and Javier Mascherano.
As half-time arrived Stoke were slightly on the back foot but were keeping Liverpool at bay. The Reds were playing with a small amount of confidence that grew as the half went on.
It just goes to show the two clubs different trajectory`s of form and results over the past season when the home fans were complaining at going in at halftime drawing 0-0 with Liverpool.
The second half carried on where the first half left off. Sidibe couldn`t win anything in the air and Tuncay looked on as a spectator as nothing came his way.
Although goals looked unlikely Liverpool broke the deadlock ten minutes into the second half. A poor decision by the linesman resulted in Liverpool being awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position right of the box. Fabio Aurelio curled in a low effort which was poorly handled by Sorensen as he pushed it out to Greek defender Kyrgiakos who tapped home. Liverpool undeservedly led as they looked to get their season back on track.
Stoke were forced to go on the offensive and with the added pace and power of Ricardo Fuller, the Potters had a good chance of getting back in the game.
Lawrence and Fuller combined down the right and forced a corner. Etherington swung it in for Fuller who met the ball firmly but planted it straight at Reina.
Stoke kept pressing but all of their corners and free-kicks were superbly dealt with by the Spaniard. Huth almost scored during a goal mouth scramble but his effort went inches wide.
However Huth did score eventually to grab a point. Another late corner was swung into the box and Higginbotham flicked the ball across the face of goal for Huth to stab the ball into the back of the net.
Liverpool didn`t take it lying down and went for a winner. However Aurelio`s superb cross for Kuyt saw the Dutchman head against the inside of the post, letting Stoke off the hook.