Stoke 1-2 LIVERPOOL

Liverpool had to travel to Stoke for out latest Premier League fixture and came away with a win. Our previous “away” (league) fixtures from 2017 had resulted in three draws and two losses but Liverpool officially have their first Premier League away win of the year now.

Jurgen Klopp had made some interesting choices for this game. With the injury list really getting large now, we’d be completely without Henderson, Lallana and Mané.

Our formation would be less 4-3-3 and more 4-5-1, with Divock Origi as the sole striker. The midfield would have Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Alexander Arnold and Woodburn in it, behind Origi as the only man up front. Coutinho had reportedly been “ill” (a common cold or sickness) even during his appearance against Bournemouth, apparently. The only reason now to bench him would be his continuing recovery from his recent illness, his form has been top notch and he’s got goals for us. Firmino also, was reported to have been suffering though Klopp says it wasn’t more than fatigue due to high levels of “intense football which has obviously had an effect on him”. So, their replacements would ultimately be the youngsters Woodburn and Alexander Arnold. They’re still rather inexperienced and to start for them for a Premier League fixture as replacements for two of your most key players is of course, risky. But that’s how it is sometimes. High risk fixtures.

Stoke’s squad would include former Liverpool players Joe Allen, Glen Johnson and Charlie Adam but unfortunately we wouldn’t get to see Peter Crouch making an appearance. Well, it wasn’t at Anfield anyway. Crouchy would have gotten a better “welcome back” if Stoke had been travelling to Liverpool.

The first half was scrappy. Most of the action was going down in the middle of the pitch and the goalkeepers really didn’t have a whole lot to do, though there was one crucial offside decision which had seen Xherdan Shaqiri put the ball past Simon Mignolet and into the net in just the 3rd minute of the game. He’d been in an offside position when he collected the ball from his teammate to make his shot though, so it wouldn’t count.

Xherdan Shaqiri is a well known footballer by now. His fame really started gather once he’d been making international appearances for Switzerland in World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016.  During the World Cup, he’d been one of Bayern Munich’s best players. Speculation over a transfer away to another club came with his rising fame and he really had the pick of any major club to play for since every team around Europe at least seemed to have noticed how desirable his skills were. It was major attention on a global scale for him. He had been “noticed”.

Shaqiri would make a move away from Germany to Italy eventually when Inter Milan bought him from Bayern Munich in 2015 but still, the transfer speculation would continue and the question most asked about him would be over whether he’d plan to make a move to the high profile English Premier League. Liverpool certainly had their eye on him as did other top clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal. He could have picked any of them and made his move there, then been a key player within a squad for one of the best English clubs ever… which made his decision to end up at Stoke quite confusing, to be honest. Stoke just aren’t recognised as “one of the best English clubs ever”. The last major trophy they won was the League Cup in 1972 and they’ve never won the Premier League, FA Cup, Charity Shield, UEFA Cup, Champions League. So, why choose them? Over teams that have such a successful history and major honours won, it doesn’t make sense. Did he have aspirations to do as Jamie Vardy has done for Leicester City? Join Stoke, then instantly go out and win the Premier League from the moment you’ve transferred there? It was never going to happen that way.

Either Shaqiri doesn’t know the history of English football well enough, or somebody misinformed him about who were the best club to play for in England. Liverpool are the most successful football club in English history, Xherdan mate. We showed our interest – our scouts were all over you. You just didn’t show the interest back. By the time you were at least publicly letting it be known that you had desires to play your football in England, you’d seemingly already made your choice that you were off to Stoke. We didn’t ever see any acknowledgement that you had intentions at all of coming to Liverpool. If we had, we’d certainly have thrown in a bid to Inter Milan for you just as we had done for Coutinho back in 2012. It worked out for him alright, surely you’d have considered doing the same? But no, this wasn’t how it would turn out. Sad but true, right? Anyway… Back to the game.

Liverpool and Stoke were spending most of the first half battling around the midfield.

Berahino would make his mark on the game as he battled with players like Milner and Matip for the ball.

Joe Allen would fight it out with young players like Woodburn and Alexander-Arnold.

Joe Allen competes with Ben Woodburn for the ball

At 17 years & 175 days, Ben Woodburn is the 3rd youngest player to start a Premier League game for Liverpool behind Jordon Ibe and Michael Owen. No offense intended to Joe Allen, but he’s 27 years old and that 10 years difference can have an effect… some might say Allen’s “slower”.  Could Allen keep up with these kids? Only for about half an hour.


Around the half hour mark, Allen had to be replaced due to injury after pulling a hamstring.There was no rough challenge and nobody was booked for a foul on him. He just unfortunately couldn’t play any further. He’d spent almost the last 30 minutes chasing teenagers around the pitch. That had to be hard for him and it’s most likely the cause of his pulled hamstring. Good luck with your recovery, Joe. Charlie Adam would replace Allen from this point and the game would continue.

Not long after the substitute, Marko Arnautovic was starting an attack. He’d make enough space away from Dejan Lovren to power a shot towards goal but Simon Mignolet was starting to show his skills too though and it could only reach the side netting. The Liverpool goalkeeper had it covered, it was never going in.

Daniel Sturridge was watching on the sidelines, though he never looks happy to be there does he? It’s like, he clearly wants to be a first team regular but he sadly just can’t stay fit enough to claim that role for being more than a substitute. I miss the days of “Suarez and Sturridge” (the SAS) and love to watch him, I really do. It just doesn’t happen often enough.

The game would go on and just before the half time whistle, Jon Walters would receive the ball from Shaqiri (I told you he was good!) and headed it from close range into the net.

Simon Mignolet dived but could not get to it in time for saving. I’m not blaming our goalkeeper for conceding at all, it would have been impossible to stop for anyone. Inside the 6 yard box, strong powerful header – it was a goal from the moment the ball left his head.

Mike Dean refused to give a penalty to Liverpool just before Stoke scored

More concerning than the fact our goalkeeper didn’t save the headed shot was that moments earlier, Ben Woodburn had been inside the Stoke penalty area with the ball, got brought down by a Stoke defender and referee Mike Dean had decided not to give a penalty kick. From there, the ball was rushed up towards the other end of the pitch and most of the Liverpool team still seemed to be wondering why the play was continuing rather being stopped for the foul on Woodburn. The shock of it all just left our team in disarray. Stoke 1- 0 Liverpool

Half Time arrived soon after the goal and Klopp seemed to have only one thing on his mind… he wanted to change up the team a bit. Despite the fact that the youngsters had been running rings around Joe Allen, they both were substituted off for the start of the second half and got replaced by… Firmino And Coutinho! Strange then, that the Brazilians hadn’t started the game, then. Even stranger that Woodburn and Alexander Arnold had actually played really well but Klopp was still bringing them off. It would make a significant difference, though. Liverpool were about to make their “comeback”.

Firmino and Coutinho start the second half against Stoke

The 2nd half didn’t instantly turn to Liverpool’s good fortune immediately though. Gini Wijnaldum accidentally misjudged a header early on and it landed with Charlie Adam, who really should have scored once it landed with him. I guess he didn’t expect it to and Simon Mignolet’s quick reactions were also responsible for making sure Stoke didn’t have a 2 goal lead.

Divock Origi decided to get into the action and was taking shots of his own too.

Stoke’s defence couldn’t stop it from going “on target” but it could not quite make it into the net. Close but no goal.

Liverpool continued to make more effort with their attacks. Firmino and Coutinho were buzzing around the pitch, getting involved with most of the action in the upper half of the pitch.

So close… Firmino almost scored a few times in the 2nd half

A great header by Dejan Lovren after a Coutinho corner in the 60th minute crossed into Stoke’s penalty area almost became the equaliser we’d been seeking but Lovren was stopped by the crossbar. An inch lower and it would have been a great headed goal. At least Liverpool were making team effort to not take a defeat lying down, even if we were away from home. It was clear the players wanted at least a draw, but most likely the win was most preferred.

Daniel Sturridge would be brought onto the pitch as Liverpool’s last available substitute in the 66th minute. Would he be the one to get us a goal? Klopp probably thought so and he made the change. A substitute would get us a goal soon, but it wouldn’t be Sturridge.

Coutinho would eventually be the hero we so needed and made sure that after a poor clearance from Whelan came to him that he accurately placed his effort to the left hand corner of the net. Stoke 1-1 Liverpool.

Just three minutes later, Liverpool were to score again. This rush of activity had been building from “chances” to “goals”. Finally, they were actually being converted. A wonderful assist from Wijnaldum saw Firmino decide to not let the ball even hit the ground, hitting with a half volley in mid air, that crashed past the goalkeeper and into the net from 20 yards out. Beautiful football. The Liverpool fans were stunned. We’d have been happy with a “tap in” goal to make it Stoke 1-2 Liverpool but this was truly amazing to watch. We were now beating our opponents and doing it in style. Only 20 minutes left to go now and it would be a goalless 20 minutes surprisingly. Scoring twice in three minutes (the 69th to 72nd) and then no more? I’m happy with the final score but I think everyone expected Liverpool to go for a 3rd goal or more.

Man Of the Match

Liverpool’s last 20 minutes of the game could have gone so much better. We probably should have been scoring more goals to put the any chance of Stoke claiming points right out of their reach, but it was down the other end of the pitch which was most important. At our defensive end.
Saido Berahino was denied by Mignolet and it really could have been 2-2 or worse (Stoke winning) if it wasn’t for Liverpool’s goalkeeper making absolutely vital saves. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to judge him on not keeping a clean sheet or conceding the 1st goal – his best form was when he was stopping Stoke from winning at their own stadium. He was tested so many times and he really passed the tests, time after time. Big shout out to my man Simon, he was more crucial than the half time substitute Klopp made. From the 1st minute to the last minute of the game, Mignolet was there for us. Credit given where it’s due. Mignolet’s the man… of the match.

What’s next?

West Brom are next in our Premier League fixture list. Make sure to keep watching as we go again. So Walk on with hope in your hearts. You’ll never Walk Alone, Anfield Family.

 

written by] Stuart Drewery.

I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.

I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.

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