FULL TIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: REDS DISPATCH STOKE CITY AND ARE LOOKING BACK TO THEIR BEST
With our minds firmly on hosting Manchester City on the 31st, we couldn’t afford to head into that must-win game with no momentum so the game with Stoke City had to end in our favor with all three points in the bag. With the Reds poised to pounce, today’s win was filled with Xmas gifts from Mark Hughes’ men to get us the equalizer after going behind early on, then the own goal that was our third, followed by a dreadful back-pass supersub Sturridge ambushed to get our fourth to make this festive fixture a memorable one that gets us back above City and 6 points from the top.
Stoke’s record at Anfield is the worst in the Premier League, having not won since 1959 and scored only two goals since 1983, but Walters set about changing that as he got in front of Lovren to catch Mignolet unawares with a header at the near-post which he got a hand to but could not keep out.
With the lead intact, Stoke fancied their chances again this time through 2 former Liverpool players, Joe Allen and Peter Crouch. Allen created space for himself in our penalty area and let fly, the shot hard enough for Mignolet to decide to parry it away and luckily far enough away from the approaching Peter Crouch.
That pretty much got us off our butts as the Reds got some urgency in their plays and it paid immediate dividends as FIrmino’s sublime effort was cleared off Stoke’s goal line only for Lallana to pick up on the rebound to send it home from the narrowest of angles, his effort coming off a slight deflection from former red Glen Johnson.
Firmino got our second a minute before the break Lallana doing well on the left, timing his pass perfectly to Milner who found Firmino and the Brazilian sent his left-footed effort crashing into both posts before finding the net to get us ahead before the half-time whistle.
Mane played a part in Liverpool’s third at the half hour mark, putting Imbula under pressure to let off a loose header which created the space for Henderson’s pass inside Johnson that found Origi whose cross was then turned into the Stoke goal by Imbula, as he tried to make up for his original error.
Sturridge got our fourth having been on the pitch just two minutes, gifted the ball by a horrendous backpass from Shawcross which the striker took around goalkeeper Grant and slotted into the net. At 3-1, we know enough not to count our chickens, but 4-1 was convincing enough to get the Kop singing victory well before the final whistle. Liverpool cruised through as it was apparent any comeback was most unlikely with Stoke players creating nothing in the way of a successful build up into our final third.
And so it stayed the Reds keeping Chelsea honest as they maintained the 6-point gap heading into Saturday’s fixture against Manchester City with the winds in our backs.
Mignolet (6); Clyne (6), Lovren (6), Klavan (7), Milner (6); Henderson (8), Wijnaldum (7), Lallana (7), FIrmino (8), Mane (8), Origi (7).
Subs: Sturridge (7), Moreno (6), Can (6).