Second best for Stoke
Wednesday 2nd February 2011
Stoke were the supporting act on a night where an upset never seemed on the cards. Two goals in the second half sealed the win for Liverpool, but it could have been worse except for some fine work by the Stoke keeper, Asmir Begovic including one that the great Gordon Banks would have been proud of.
Tony Pulis had more than just an eye on Saturday's home tie against Sunderland with his team selection, preferring to rest key members of the strike force whilst relying on the additional defensive expertise of Salif Diao in midfield and the sole presence of John Carew up front.
With that line-up, the Potters never came to Anfield to dominate, but were content to rely on dogged defending to earn them a result. Liverpool, by contrast, whilst without their overpriced £35m Geordie striker and with £23m worth of Uruguay's best on the bench still were intent on proving that they could still do the business without Fernando Torres. But the Potters held the line well for 45 minutes with Begovic making a great, instinctive save when a point blank header from Johnson already had the Kop behind the goal on their feet in celebration.
TP's half time team talk would have consisted of ensuring that the team provided more of the same for the final 45, but it only took two minutes for that plan to come undone. Gerrard's shot rattled around several bodies in the six yard box before Meireles manged to toe poke it into the back of the net to put the home side into the lead.
Stoke offered little in reply with Jon Walters the only one who really tested Reina, whilst Carew saw a shot across the goal go narrowly wide.
The result was ultimately sealed by the introduction of Suarez and you knew that fate would ensure that he was soon off the mark. With 15 minutes remaining, some careless defending allowed Kuyt to put Suarez through and after going around a stranded Begovic his shot on goal was deflected on to the post and into the net by Andy Wilkinson who had backtracked in support of his keeper.
We'll take that defeat on the chin and console ourselves that we did take Liverpool ot the cleaners earlier on in the season at the Brit and that we're still in the FA Cup. We can now look forward to our first home match for three weeks and the visit of Sunderland to the Brit - but three points on Saturday lunchtime are now a must.