Saturday, 10 September 2011

Match report: Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool

Liverpool's unbeaten start to the 2011-12 season was ended at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as they were beaten 1-0 by Stoke City.

The only goal of an exciting Premier League contest arrived in the 21st minute, as Jonathan Walters thundered home a penalty to give Tony Pulis' team the victory.

Kenny Dalglish decided to make just one change to the side that comfortably beat Bolton Wanderers last time out, with Martin Skrtel replacing the injured Martin Kelly. Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy, two signings that were made late in the summer's transfer window, were named amongst the substitutes.

Stoke, a team that is plying its trade in the Europa League this season, were able to give Peter Crouch (formerly of Liverpool) his first start since moving to the club on 'deadline day'. Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome, who have also only recently arrived at the club, were named in the matchday squad for the first time.

The game started aggressively, with Luis Suarez going close twice in the opening five minutes. The Uruguayan struck narrowly over from the edge of the box, before only just failing to connect with a Charlie Adam corner.

The visitors threatened with chances and dominated the opening exchanges, but they were behind midway through the first half.

Mark Clattenburg, the referee of the match, awarded Stoke a penalty after Jamie Carragher was adjudged to have hauled down Walters in the box. The winger stepped up to take the kick himself and finished with minimal fuss.

The Reds' response to going behind was available just moments after the restart, with Suarez almost punishing Asmir Begovic for some suspect goalkeeping. However, the Copa America winner's half volley was impressively kept out by a committed Ryan Shawcross on the line.

Before the interval, Dalglish's side probably should have capitalised on poor defending, as a low centre from Suarez was allowed to find its way to an incoming Skrtel. The Slovakian defender, who was filling in at right-back, couldn't keep his shot down.

Liverpool picked up were they left off in the second half, with Lucas Leiva's shot being deflected behind by Matthew Upson. The resulting corner came to nothing, but it was clear that the hosts were in for a difficult 45 minutes.

On the hour mark, the match should have been all square. A Jose Enrique pass sent Jordan Henderson through on goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat, the former Sunderland midfielder saw three poor efforts kept out, before Charlie Adam picked up the loose ball and attempted to force home the equaliser. The stubborn qualities of Stoke's defence were epitomised in and amongst this fracas, as both Marc Wilson and Begovic thwarted the Scotland international.

Dalglish made a double substitution as the game creeped into the final quarter, with Andy Carroll and Bellamy replacing Dirk Kuyt and Henderson respectively.

Despite having a lot of the ball and spending the majority of the last 20 minutes in the opposition half, Liverpool could only fashion two more clear chances. Stewart Downing was guilty of wasting a good opportunity, lashing wide after a tidy exchange with Suarez, before Suarez himself somehow failed to hit the target after Begovic flapped at a high ball in injury time.

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