It was like the Alamo, but Stoke held on.
After a 20th minute penalty courtesy of defender Jamie Carragher, Stoke forward Jonathan Walters struck an emphatic spot-kick, punching the ball into the centre of the goal.
To say it was one-sided would be, unquestionably, a gross understatement. But for all of Liverpool’s possession, 59% of the play, Dalglish’s side couldn’t find the back of the net. Suarez, Adam and Henderson all tried, only to be thwarted by keeper Asmir Begovic and Stoke’s resilient back line.
Liverpool clearly didn’t find the form that saw them ease to a 3-1 win against Bolton last time out. Stoke’s combined work-rate and defensive prowess shut out a Liverpool side that has been tipped for big things this term.
Luis Suarez, undoubtedly Liverpool’s greatest threat, had an opportunity to seal redemption for his side in the final minute. A mix-up between new boy Peter Crouch and keeper Begovic in the box led to the ball deflecting to Suarez, with the goal seemingly at the Uruguayan’s mercy. His ensuing effort flew wide, and Stoke survived.
Suarez was prominent in all of Liverpool’s attacking chances early on, prompting immediate dread from the Stoke support each time the Uruguayan got on the ball. Ryan Shawcross, who was excellent, blocked a Suarez shot as he searched for that elusive goal to bring the Reds level. Suarez was a constant worry in the match, his movement and skill a key component in Liverpool’s attack.
After the break Jordan Henderson should have equalised when he broke clear on the Stoke goal. The Stoke defence were no where to be seen, and if not for the heroics of keeper Begovic, I would be compiling an entirely different match report. In total he made 4 saves in quick succession, the Bosnian sprawling all over his goal to maintain his clean-sheet.
New signing Craig Bellamy had an opportunity late in the game, his header landing just inches wide. Not exactly his forte, heading. He’s more suited to arguing, as he attested to in an heated exchange with Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross after the final whistle. The £35 million pound man, Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, entered the fray along with Bellamy. Carroll hardly contributed much to the game in the limited time he was on. I suspect he’ll go down the pub to drown his sorrows.
Pulis’ side began fairly brightly, attacking the Liverpool area with a series of dangerous free-kicks. Liverpool withstood the aerial bombardment supplied to new-boy Peter Crouch, who disappointed on his debut for his new club. Crouch appeared lethargic, a victim of a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and was overshadowed by goalscorer Jonathan Walters. That said, Crouch impressed in the opening stages and will improve as the season progresses.
The second half was played almost entirely in Stoke’s half. Liverpool amassed a dominant 80% of possession in the second period. Suarez was incensed in the second period, furious at referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision not to award his side a penalty, sighting a suspected hand-ball by defender Matthew Upson. Nothing given.
Stoke’s defending was first class, and Pulis’ side currently sit in the Champions League places. If only for a day.
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