Sunday, September 11, 2011

Match Report: Stoke 1 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool stumbled over a familiar hurdle at the Britannia Stadium as they slipped to their first defeat of the season.

In four visits to Stoke since the Potters earned promotion to the Barclays Premier League, the Reds have collected just two points and lost their last two matches.

Not since 1968 have Stoke recorded back-to-back home league wins over Liverpool and the result brought a side brimming with confidence before the international break back down to earth with a hefty bump.

Jon Walters scored the only goal from a 20th-minute penalty after being fouled by Jamie Carragher.

From that point nearly all the possession and chances were created by the visitors, but the resilient hosts ground out the win despite a frantic final half-hour.

When you come to Stoke you have to be prepared to compete and while Liverpool were able to do that it was at the expense of any passing game as they were sucked into the direct style of their opponents.

The Potters are a threat from set-pieces but deadline-day signing Peter Crouch, making a debut against his former club, weakly headed wide one free-kick.

At the other end Luis Suarez, from close range, somehow failed to connect with Charlie Adam's inswinging corner to the far post.

Martin Skrtel, pushed into service at right-back, nipped in front of Ryan Shawcross to prevent the Stoke captain getting his head to Matt Etherington's free-kick as the hosts generated the early pressure.

But the opening goal, when it came, was from a simple ball over the top which caught Carragher out of position.

The Reds centre-back looked to have made good ground to get around Walters but when the Stoke forward went down with Carragher's arm around his waist referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot and the player picked himself up to drill a shot straight down the middle of the goal.

Stoke were blocking most avenues open to Suarez - as displayed by a sprawling Shawcross who smothered one near-post shot - with two defenders on occasions but the Uruguayan still found ways of getting past.

He easily turned Robert Huth on the left and crossed to the far side of penalty area where an onrushing Skrtel appeared to be clipped by Etherington just before he blazed a shot over.

After a relatively quiet start to the second half, the match exploded into action just past the hour as Liverpool had five shots in the space of 20 seconds but still could not find a way through.

Jose Enrique's through-ball sent Jordan Henderson racing clear through the middle but he side-footed his first shot straight at Asmir Begovic, the goalkeeper made a good save from the follow-up and Matthew Upson's chest blocked the third.

However, the danger was not over as the loose ball dropped to Adam's dangerous left foot but Shawcross blocked his first effort from the edge of the penalty area and Begovic got back to stop the rebound.

The introduction of Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll for Henderson and Dirk Kuyt ramped up the pressure on the hosts in the final 20 minutes.

But Stoke manned the barricades and with Liverpool seemingly intent on going through the middle more often than not they made it easier for their opponents to crowd them out.

Stoke were being forced back and it was midfielder Dean Whitehead who put in the crunching block tackle inside his own penalty area which denied Suarez yet again.

It is not in the Uruguay international's nature to give up and he kept plugging away, seeing his shot across goal tipped wide by Begovic.

Stewart Downing cut inside from the right to blaze over, Carroll had a claim for a penalty when his shot appeared to hit the arm of Whitehead while Bellamy headed Downing's cross wide.

Suarez was convinced he should have had a spot-kick when his cross hit Upson's arm but neither referee Mark Clattenburg nor his assistant spotted the offence.

The striker had his chance to put that wrong right in the fourth minute of added time when Begovic and Shawcross got in each other's way but he stabbed wide with the goal gaping.

Stoke were hanging on at the end - something they are well equipped and well-enough drilled to do - and they blunted everything Liverpool threw at them.

Kenny Dalglish Ponders Referee Action

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish says he will consult the club's owners over how to deal with what he perceives to be poor refereeing so far this season.

The Reds boss was unhappy with a number of decisions during his side's 1-0 defeat at Stoke on Saturday.

And afterwards he said: "The first four games have had contentious decisions in them and every one has gone against us.

"We would like to be respectful to referees but more important is having respect for my football club."

He added: "If I feel the club is suffering in any shape or form I will need to go the same route other people go and see if we can gain some benefit from that.

"The first four league games have had contentious decisions in them and every one has gone against us.

"I'll speak to the owners first and see what they say because the last thing I want to do is for my behaviour to impinge on the club's success in any way."

Dalglish insisted he did not have a problem with Stoke's approach in the match at the Britannia Stadium, but admitted his frustration that Liverpool got nothing out of the game.

He also did not believe Jamie Carragher had fouled Jon Walters for the winning penalty.

"I think it is a bit of an understatement to say we deserved something from the game," added the Scot.

"We can only do what we can do ourselves, sometimes other things are taken outside your jurisdiction.

"If we continually get battered by things outside of our control we are not going to get much chance.

"We don't have any complaint about Stoke; they played hard and played well, they got the goal and defended courageously at times and maybe at times they got a bit of luck.

"But I just cannot see how [Stoke's winner] is a penalty kick."

Tony Pulis Hails Luis Suarez

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis has expressed his satisfaction at stopping Liverpool from playing after his side beat the Reds 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium.

The win came courtesy of a contentious penalty after Jamie Carragher was deemed to have illegally brought down Jonathan Walters, incurring the wrath of Kenny Dalglish after the game, with the Scot displeased that his side had seen several appeals fall on deaf ears.

"Kenny [Dalglish] will be as biased as I am. If you're at Stoke City that will always be the case," Pulis said.

"I'll respect his opinion, whether they were [penalties] or not I don't know, but I'll have a look later on.

"I thought we were pretty poor in possession of the ball at times and we are better than that, but we were really top drawer off the ball.

"We worked very, very hard. We stopped them from playing."

The Welsh boss had plenty of praise for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, who endured a frustrating spell in front of goal but threatened the backline throughout the match.

"I thought [Luis] Suarez up front was absolutely fantastic. He looks a real, real player. A player that will grace the Premier League. His movement and touch at times was different class," Pulis said.

Pulis – who spent over £20 million on deadline day by signing Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome – admitted that the club must endeavour to improve.

"We need to keep that, we need to get better technically and improve the side, especially from a passing point of view," he said.

"But we still need that spirit and commitment."

The win extended Stoke's unbeaten start to the season to eight games, and the manager admitted he was delighted to have got off to such a strong opening to the campaign, and the Welsh boss admitted he was relieved and proud that his side got through a tough beginning to the Premier League.

Gerrard Targets Derby Return

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard hopes to return to action in time for the Merseyside derby but admits he will have to fight for his place.

The veteran midfielder has been sidelined for over six months with a groin injury, a problem that was complicated when he suffered an infection.

However, Gerrard has now returned to full training and the Merseyside derby at Everton in three weeks' time has been set as his possible return date.

Boss Kenny Dalglish secured the likes of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson during the summer transfer window and the Reds have made a strong start to the new campaign, despite Saturday's loss at Stoke.

Gerrard is well aware he will have to battle to win his place back in the side but he feels Liverpool look stronger this season and has welcomed the competition for places.

"We're looking stronger," said Gerrard. "The competition in each position is fantastic. We've near enough got two top players in each position, so there is going to be a big fight on for places."

Downing: We Deserved More

Stewart Downing believes Liverpool have every right to feel frustrated at the manner of the defeat to Stoke City on Saturday - but insists there are positives to be derived from their performance.

The Reds slipped to a narrow 1-0 loss courtesy of Jon Walters's 21st minute penalty after Jamie Carragher was adjudged to have brought down the Potters forward inside the box.

However, Kenny Dalglish's side dominated the contest at the Britannia Stadium and had strong spot-kick appeals of their own waved away when Luis Suarez's cross struck the hand of Matthew Upson as the game edged towards its conclusion.

"I thought we played some decent football," Downing told "We were unlucky and on another day we would have put our chances away, but it wasn't to be.

"I'm not sure whether it was a penalty or not for their goal, but maybe we should have had one ourselves.

"I played the ball to Luis, and although I couldn't see the incident from where I was standing, the lads were saying it was a stonewall handball afterwards.

"It was frustrating, but credit to Stoke, they made it hard for us."

Liverpool applied heavy pressure to Stoke's goal for the entire second half as they went in search of what would have been a deserved equalizer.

The Reds can consider themselves unfortunate not to have taken at least a point back to Merseyside - and Downing feels they can take heart from a dominant display.

Downing added: "The manager said to us after the game to keep doing what we're doing.

"I don't think there was a lot wrong with our performance - we played quite well.

"Stoke is a difficult place to go, but at times we played some good football and cut through them.

"It was 'one of those days' and we couldn't hit the net, but hopefully we'll be able to do it at Tottenham next week. We've just got to keep doing the same things.

"We're frustrated, but it was positive that we were able to create chances, were still passing and moving, and trying to do the right things.

"We were unlucky, but we've just got to keep doing the same things."

Suarez Reveals How He Convinced Coates To Join Liverpool

Luis Suarez has revealed that it was telling Sebastian Coates what happens "behind the scenes" at Liverpool that convinced him to join the Anfield club.

The young defender won the accolade of being named best young player of the tournament as Uruguay won the recent Copa America, and subsequently joined the Reds during the summer transfer window after a fee believed to be in the region of £7 million had been agreed between Liverpool and Nacional.

The 20-year-old has since explained that his international team-mate Suarez was key to his move to Merseyside. And Suarez himself has now told the club's official website: "The things I told him were about stuff about behind the scenes at the club - he already knew about everything else.

"Liverpool is one of the biggest and best clubs in Europe, and he knows that well enough himself."

He added: "He is coming to a team where he can really develop as an individual. He is still very young and has a lot to learn, but there are some highly-experienced players here who can help him a lot with that.

"He is aware of that and he is happy to learn and help the team as much as he can."

Late Morgan Winner Sinks Leeds

Goal machine Adam Morgan netted a stoppage time winner as Liverpool U18s came from behind to beat Leeds United 2-1 on Saturday.

Mike Marsh's side played some tremendous football at times and deservedly took the three points as they bounced back from last weekend's defeat to Derby.

Jordan Lussey fired the equalizer with a fine effort from the edge of the box and Morgan found the net for the dramatic winner.

A delighted Marsh told "The lads did really well and I'm pleased with them.

"We created a lot of chances but we kept going and got there in the end.

"You know when Morgan is about a goal is always a possibility and it was a well worked goal. Lussey put in a cross, Matty Regan has headed it across goal and Morgan has stuck it away."

Liverpool team: Jamie Stephens, Peter Aylmer, Tom King, Joe Rafferty, Matty Regan, Yalany Baio, Nathan Quirk, Josh Sumner, Adam Morgan, Sam Gainford, Jordan Lussey. Subs: Lewis Hatch, Connor Wearing, Tom Walsh, Michael Wilson, David Moli.

Unique Shankly Tribute

Four of Bill Shankly's greatest players will appear in a unique autumn show when the stirring, tartan tones of their legendary manager resonate around Southport Theatre.

Archive clips of the great man, from an interview only recently released, will feature in The Bill Shankly Anniversary Show which hits Southport on October 7.

Kop heroes Ian St John, Ian Callaghan, Ron Yeats and Chris Lawler will be live on stage in a special memorial tribute to football's most charismatic manager, who died 30 years ago this autumn.

The fascinating memories and anecdotes of the four former players will be interwoven through the two-and-a-half-hour production with Shankly's own words, extracted from interviews with the great man by blind former headmaster Frank McFarlane and by broadcaster John Keith, the show's writer and presenter.

Keith said: "We are indebted to Frank for letting us use his interview with Bill which he did in 1979 as part of a series of talks with sporting celebrities for the visually impaired.

"We have blended Frank's material with some of my own interviews with Bill from my days as a Daily Express sportswriter and we also hear Bill's wife Nessie. I know it will rekindle many memories for the former players on stage, some funny, some sad, and I'm sure the audience will find it captivating."

The incredible archive clips feature Shankly's views on many topics including:

How he landed the Liverpool manager's job in 1959, when the club was languishing in Second Division mediocrity.

The players he signed to revolutionize the club's fortunes.

The man who opened the Anfield purse strings to fund transfers.

The Liverpool player he rated even better than England's World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore.

His shock retirement as manager in 1974 and the Boot Room legacy.