Walters penalty miss ruins Hughes debut at Anfield
17th August 2013 12.45pm
Attendance: 44, 822
Mark Hughes` reign as Stoke manager started with a defeat at Anfield in an entertaining game.
Daniel Sturridge`s solitary strike was enough to condemn the Welsh manager to a defeat in his first match in charge of the Potters.
Hughes and his players could have come away from the fixture with at least a point if Jonathan Walters hadn`t had his late penalty saved by debutant goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal.
Stoke handed a debut to £3 million left back Eric Pieters, whilst Liverpool gave debuts to Mignolet, Iago Aspas and Kolo Toure.
Stoke`s plans were scuppered moments before kick off when Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios, who had been given his first start for the Potters in over a year, was rushed to hospital with stomach pains, where he had to undergo a minor surgical procedure.
Marc Wilson replaced the midfielder in the starting line-up.
The setback didn`t seem to upset the Staffordshire outfit though as they came out the traps quickly and nearly took the lead in the opening 5 minutes, when Glenn Whelan hit a long hopeful cross deep in the box, which Mignolet tried to come to collect but got nowhere it. Peter Crouch managed to head the ball back across the box and Robert Huth volleyed the ball from 10 yards with the goal gaping but could only rattle the bar.
Liverpool soon got into their stride and responded almost identically when Kolo Toure lost his marker from a corner and rattled the bar with a header, and when the rebound fell to Daniel Sturridge with the goal at his mercy he smashed over from 2 yards out.
New signing Aspas looked extremely dangerous on his debut and nearly capped it off with a debut goal, when the ever lively Coutinho found the Spanish forward who could only find the ever impressive Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal.
The home side thought they finally had taken the lead when Steven Gerrard whipped in an impressive free kick, which found Sturridge`s head, but his effort was rightly ruled out for offside.
Liverpool continued to pen Stoke back in their own half and were again frustrated on a number of times by Begovic and even by debutant Pieters who cleared a Sturridge effort off the line.
The deadlock was finally broken when Daniel Sturridge let fly from 25 yards and beat the Bosnian as he managed to sneak the ball through Robert Huth`s legs and smash the ball into the far corner.
Stoke, who were still adapting to their new style of play, impressed in patches, especially on the counter attack.
The Potters nearly hit back before the break when Walters smashed a curling effort in from just outside the 18-yard box, for only debutant Mignolet to thwart the Irishmen with a stunning diving save.
Henderson nearly doubled Liverpool`s lead early in the second half after some good play from Aspas, only to see his shot fantastically saved by Begovic, who tipped the ball onto the post.
A trademark Gerrard free kick from 35-yards once again brought the fantastic Begovic into action, who had to tip the ball over the bar.
Stoke gaffer Hughes tried to drag Stoke back into the game when he brought trio Charlie Adam, Jermaine Pennant and Kenwyne Jones into the match.
Adam almost equalised for Stoke with an audacious effort from the halfway line where he tried to lob Mignolet, but the Belgian managed to flick the ball over the bar after a hurriedly backpedal.
In the dying embers of the match, Stoke were given a potential lifeline to grab a point in Hughes` first match. Pennant whipped the ball into the box and with Jonathan Walters missing a header the ball hit Daniel Agger`s outstretched hand and ref Atkinson had no other choice but to point to the spot.
Soon as the whistle was blown Irish forward Walters grabbed the ball and would not let anyone else even contemplate taking the spot kick, but the result was a similar scenario for Walters and the Stoke faithful, as Walters penalty was saved by Mignolet, and the Belgium stopper was even alert and agile enough to get back to his feet and stop Kenwyne Jones follow up.
The Bosnian keeper started off where he left off last season. He was simply outstanding, and thwarted Liverpool again and again.