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Thursday, 3 February 2011
LIVERPOOL 2-0 STOKE CITY MATCH REPORT
After all the excitement of the last few days it was finally back to matters on the field. Liverpool with a sense of a new era starting after the departure of Torres and the new signings of Suarez and Carroll were looking forward to this match against Stoke. Liverpool going into the game with two wins in a row and looking to keep their recent good run going against a tough Stoke side who beat Liverpool in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Going into the game Liverpool were sitting two points better off than Stoke in the league table and having a great home record against Stoke having won 13 of their last 14 meetings against them.
I wasn't expecting many changes to the team for this match but I was surprised by the line-up with Kenny making three changes to the side that beat Fulham last week. Kyrgiakos, Aurelio and Lucas were restored to the side which surprised me but made sense, starting with three centre backs in the side with Kyrgiakos alongside Skrtel and Agger would combat Stoke's airial threat especially from set pieces. Kuyt was pushed up front with new signing Suarez on the bench alongside fit again Carragher. Andy Carroll was not available as he is still recovering from injury.
A tremendous sense of anticipation around Anfield for this one with the hope that the faithful would see one of their new signings tonight. Liverpool started the game in a positive fashion and created the first chance in 5 minutes with a Kyrgiakos goalbound header being cleared off the line by Diao. Then Skrtel shot wide after winning possession on the edge of the Stoke box. Liverpool were passing and moving with a fluency that has not been witnessed much this season as there seems to be a new found confidence in the side. But Stoke were making it difficult for Liverpool to create many chances as they got numbers behind the ball quickly. On 30 minutes Gerrard burst into the box and was derailed by a block by Huth but Liverpool's appeals for a penalty were waved away. Huth was involved in the games only unsavoury incident when he appeared to jump in two footed to a challenge with Kelly but the referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge and didn't brandish any card. As the game approached the half Liverpool started to create more chances with Begovic making a brilliant point blank save from a powerful close range Johnson header after good work from Kelly down the right. Seconds later Kuyt glanced a Gerrard cross just wide of the far post, and it was Kuyt going close again as he hooked over the bar from close range. Kuyt seemed to be having all the chances and he went close again right on half time with a fierce shot from outside the box which Begovic did well to save after a good passing move involving Gerrard, Lucas and Aurelio. Liverpool playing well but frustrated going in at half time at 0-0 didn't have long to wait before making the breakthrough, with only 2 minutes into the second half Gerrard hit a long range free kick which eventually fell to Meireles 8 yards out and he smashed the ball past Begovic giving Liverpool a deserved lead. Liverpool dominated possession after taking the lead as their confidence grew but Carew reminded them that Stoke were not out of the match with a fierce shot from the edge of the box that went just wide of Reina's far post. Then in the 63rd minute the sight all Liverpool fans had been waiting for, the introduction of Luis Suarez for Aurelio who recieved a tremendous reception from the crowd, and it was a dream debut for the new number 7 as he ended the match as a contest in the 79th minute when Kuyt sent him clear, Suarez then rounded Begovic before sliding the ball towards goal, Wilkinson's attempted clearance could not prevent Suarez notching a debut goal. It capped off a fine win and performance from Liverpool.
Another great win for Liverpool as the confidence grows in the team with every game under Kenny's influence. A clever team selection from Dalglish by playing three centre backs to combat Stoke's danger from set-pieces. Also a good move bringing Aurelio into the middle of the park with Lucas giving license for Johnson, Kelly,Gerrard and Meireles to push forward. Kenny's tactics were spot on and Stoke never threatened Reina's goal. I haven't seen a Liverpool side pass as well as this for some time it really was great to watch, Meireles and Gerrard driving forward with Kelly and Johnson driving down the flanks gave us so many attacking options. Kuyt had a tremendous match up front and deserved a goal for his persistence. Huth should have seen red for his tackle on Kelly but thankfully Kelly never recieved an injury from the tackle as it was dangerous. The Liverpool defence was solid as a rock as they kept another clean sheet, their third in a row. A tremendous night was capped off by the welcome of Luis Suarez and to grab a debut goal was the icing on the cake. A great night all round, now our attention can turn to puting Torres in his place on Sunday.
Man Of The Match - Gerrard - I thought there was many contenders on the night as it was a great team performance, Meireles and Kuyt for me worth a special mention, but I go for Gerrard as I thought his passing and driving runs were more like his old self as he looks to be enjoying his football again under Dalglish's guidance.