Liverpool left the Britannia Stadium with only one point without having scored a goal. Some will say they didn’t even deserve a point.
Stoke City gave their home fans a display that was set out to frustrate the league leaders and bombarded the reds with their dangerous airiel threat. And it worked.
Liverpool sent out a team that you would expect to compete on the physical aspect, which everyone knows you have to expect going into a game against a team that has proven in recent fixtures gone by that they are not an easy pushover.
But the fight just wasn’t there with a lot of Liverpool’s players. And the intention to win the game wasn’t reflected brightly by the team selection.
Liverpool started with Kuyt up front on his own. And Gerrard playing just behind him.
For the first 15 minutes Liverpool looked like they about to boss the game possession wise, just as they did against Newcastle. But Stoke recognised that they were playing a little too deep and pushed up about ten yards, which left Gerrard in no mans land, Kuyt isolated on his own seeing him drift deep or outwide to get a sniff of the ball and it also left Mascherano and Lucas to try deal with the ball under pressure.
This only resulted in Stoke getting a good run of pressure through free kicks and throw-ins. Just the way they wanted to play the game.
Liverpool were beginning to give the ball away cheaply and found themselves being thankful that Skrtel and Hyypia were actually up to doing their job.
Kuyt went close on 7 minutes but failed to take advantage of a rare but beautiful cross from Reira. Later on in the first half Kuyt also tested Sorensen from a tight angle but the Stoke keeper was equal to it.
Rory Delap was a constant danger with his long throwing ability. But it was he hit the woodwork for Stoke, ironically resulting from Liverpool’s poor clearance off one of his throws.
Liverpool did actually hit the woodwork twice in the latter stages of the game through Steven Gerrard. And even with Torres coming off the bench early in the second half, you had a feeling that it was only going to be Gerrard to drag any possible win out the bag for the reds. But it wasn’t to be.
The commitment and desire to stay top has to improve if the performance against Stoke is anything to go by. It’s ok looking at the league table on paper and seeing Liverpool at the top. But as Stoke proved against the reds. No game is an on paper win. The sooner the reds hammer this into their minds, the better.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
“Today was a difficult, different to the other one [0-0 draw with Stoke] at Liverpool. Then we created a lot of chances and had a lot of opportunities.
“This one was more difficult. We started well and had control of the game. They had a lot of options in terms of belief and we lost control.
“It is a game we could win but we could also have lost too, and it was important not to lose. When we play against 10 men and an organised team it is not easy.”
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Aurelio, Benayoun (Babel 76), Leiva Lucas, Mascherano, Riera (Torres 60), Gerrard, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Keane, Plessis, El Zhar.
Booked: Gerrard, Leiva Lucas.
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Delap, Amdy Faye, Whelan, Etherington (Lawrence 78), Kitson (Pugh 89), Cresswell.
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Griffin, Olofinjana, Tonge, Sonko.
Booked: Etherington, Wilkinson.
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).