Liverpool started off their busy Christmas period by beating Stoke 4-1 at Anfield. Having witnessed Chelsea comfortably win to go nine points clear there was only one solution – a win.
- Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged side once again, selecting the team that beat Everton and Middlesbrough last week.
- Philippe Coutinho was among those still out with injury.
- Merseyside-born Walters nets Stoke’s opener.
- Lallana and Firmino claw back a goal each, meaning we went 2-1 up at half-time.
- Imbula’s own goal in 60th minute.
- Sturridge scores first league goal of the season, making it 4-1.
Hughes’ game plan
With Mark Hughes opting to not choose the creativity and flair the like of Ibrahim Afellay, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri provide it was very clear Stoke had a clear game plan – opting to play high, long balls.
Two former players Peter Crouch and Joe Allen were instrumental during Stoke’s attacks. Crouch demonstrating how well he is able to hold the ball up and link well with advancing midfielders. He played a key role in the buildup as Erik Pieters’ hooked cross was eventually headed home by Walters in just 13 minutes. Again highlighting Liverpool’s vulnerability in defence.
There were questions again raised about the positioning of Mignolet, whether Karius should be in goal or if Liverpool should approach someone like Joe Hart. Sadly this will always happen when we concede a goal.
Allen was playing like a man eager to prove a point to the club that sold him to Stoke for £13m in the summer. This time, if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Mignolet the Welshman could have doubled the visiting team’s advantage.
Just like the game against Everton, Liverpool seemingly needed a catalyst. Why do we hae to go 1-0 to provoke s reaction? Thankfully what we witnessed was a superb turn around. Liverpool began to gain control, where it took a last-minute block from Crouch to deny Firmino from close range.
Liverpool responded positively.
Sadio Mane‘s drilled cross steered in by an onrushing Adam Lallana, sweeping home from a tight angle after Glen Johnson failed to clear the danger inside his six-yard box.
There was an immediate change of atmosphere as soon as the ball went in the net. You could sense there would be more goals coming.
A superb pass to Firmino inside the area from Milner, who drifted out wide, taking a defender. Allowing Firmino more time to turn unchallenged in the box, who struck a sweet low shot bouncing in off the far and then near post.
Klopp delayed sending his side out for the second half, with the German utilising the interval to motivate his troops.
Liverpool had too much pace and too much quality for the Potters to handle. Stoke tried to have a go, left themselves exposed and paid the price. Erik Pieters going forward at every opportunity allowed James Milner into the gaps provided down the left flank – giving Stoke an extra worry.
Henderson, who is looking more like a captain as games go by grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Turning provider, laying the ball into the path of Origi, whose cross was slid past Grant by Giannelli Imbula.
Thinking of the next game
As predicted, as soon as the Reds had that 2-goal cushion Klopp looked at his battle against Pep Guardiola on New Year’s Eve.
Making a pair of substitutions with 20 minutes left to play, on went Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge scored within a minute of coming on, capitalising on Ryan Shawcross’ clumsy pass back to goalkeeper Lee Grant. Allowing Sturridge a clear run through scoring his first Premier League goal of the season.
Sturridge’s goal was a bit special for Klopp – Liverpool’s 100th since taking charge of the club.
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