What a season this is shaping up to be. Liverpool went into todays game knowing a win was essential, and the players looked like they knew exactly what was at stake. With all the teams around us winning yesterday, today was no time for faint hearts. So many times before our team would have wilted under such pressure, but not on this occasion.
Stoke are a team that the reds have never beaten at the Britannia in the premier league. They have held Everton, and beaten Chelsea at home, so we knew we were in for a monumental battle, and so it proved to be the case.
The first half was hard to bear. The lads raced into a 2 goal lead, courtesy of a massive deflection from a Sissoko shot (5), and a moment of genius from King Luis (32). I got carried away and allowed myself to entertain thoughts of three points and 4th spot once more. The travelling Kop seemed to agree, and their voices drowned out the usually noisy Stoke fans.
Liverpool have never done things the easy way, and two ex reds ensured this trait would continue. in the 39th minute, Crouch was allowed far too much space in the box, and headed brilliantly into Mignolet’s bottom corner, to bring Stoke back into the game. Fairplay to Crouchy he didn’t celebrate, but that was no consolation.
You could sense the equalizer coming, and another ex red Charlie Adam dutifully delivered with the kind of strike we saw far too little of in a red shirt. Half time arrived as a blessed relief. Judging by my SMS in box blue hearts were souring, and red stomach’s were sinking. If I am honest I could only see a draw or a defeat at this stage.
Liverpool have displayed quality and character in spades so far this season, and that’s compensated massively for our porous defence. I don’t know what Brendan said at half time but it worked, and out came the lads to have another go. It took just 6 minutes for the lead to be restored.
More mishaps in the stoke rear guard let Sterling in, and to be fair it didn’t take much for him to go down in the box. It may have seemed harsh on the Potters, but we (in particular Sterling) have been on the receiving end of some terrible decisions this season, so we’re not going to apologise too much when one finally goes our way. Penalty Liverpool, and up steps veteran captain Gerrard, playing his 650th game, to put us back in front.
You sensed this wasn’t going to be enough, and when Suarez linked up with Sturridge (on for the excellent Coutinho) I was out of my seat once more. The magician latched onto a great pass from his strike partner, and unleashed a fierce shot from a tight angle into the bottom corner, and our two goal lead was restored with just 19 minutes to go.
Surely that was that? Not so, and an absolute howler, by the otherwise impressive Mignolet let Stoke back into the game in the 85th minute. Cue a deluge of morbid texts from reds, and jubilant ones from blues. This was turning into a classic.
I’ll come back to that quality and character, mentioned earlier. Liverpool had just too much of it, and Stoke eventually submitted. From the moment Sturridge’s name appeared on the squad sheet for todays game, you felt the script was written, and so it proved to be.
just two minutes after Stoke sent reds into panic, Suarez delivered a sublime cross field pass, which Sturridge race onto, unleashing a great shot. I was convinced it had gone in. I was wrong, but the striker, back from a nine game absence showed no signs of rustiness. He took on the rebound and dispatched it brilliantly.
Stoke weren’t finished. There was even time for Mignolet to save spectacularly from a Gerrard header, preventing what would have been the own goal of the season. Four minutes injury time proved insufficient for any more scares, and the points were heading back to Anfield with the jubilant Travelling Kop.
January 12th 2014