Fuller and Jones bring Reds revival to a halt
Stoke City 2 Liverpool 0
On a cold night in the Potteries, a double blast of Caribbean sunshine left Liverpool frazzled and defeated. Second-half goals by Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones, who represent Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago respectively, brought Stoke victory over the five-time European champions for the first time since April 1984 – and a richly deserved one at that.
Fuller had reached a century of goals in British football in style against Birmingham last week. Now he again warmed the hearts of Stoke supporters by launching his second hundred in more prosaic fashion, from feet rather than yards, while Jones was sent clear by the Anfield-reject Jermaine Pennant in the final minuteto side-foot the second.
Liverpool's embarrassment was compounded by the dismissal in stoppage time of Lucas, the ineffectual Brazilian having scythed down Matthew Etherington to incur a second yellow card. In the final moments of the match, sections of the large Liverpool following chanted the name of Kenny Dalglish, with many apparently wanting the former manager to replace Roy Hodgson.
Stoke's second win in five days propelled them into the top half of the Premier League – above Liverpool by a goal – which is a position only their most optimistic fans can have envisaged when they failed to pick up a single point from the previous four matches. For Liverpool, having surged up the table from the relegation zone, this was a chastening experience, particularly after their morale-boosting win over Chelsea a week earlier.
Hodgson claimed he had not heard the calls for Dalglish, but accepted that such chants were "part of life at Liverpool". He added: "We're trying to do the best job we can in the circumstances, but I don't know whether that type of singing helps anybody. I'm certain lots of fans will sympathise with us in what we're trying to do."
The Liverpool manager pronounced himself "frustrated and sad" that their revival had come to an end. "We knew it would be a battle and we'd be hard pushed to win it," he said. "When they scored from one of their long throws it was always going to be even more of an uphill battle and I think we missed Fernando Torres when he had to go off after taking a kick in the second half. But I don't want to seem to be making excuses. We lost to a strong team. They out-battled us."
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, hailed the display by his front two as their best in tandem since Jones' arrival for £8m from Sunderland during the summer. "The important thing was to push up on Liverpool and stop them getting into any rhythm with their passing," he said. "I thought Ric and Kenwyne did that superbly. "
Stoke dominated the first half against a Liverpool side that sat too deep, but they had no goals to show for their superiority. Amazingly, when they made the breakthrough 11 minutes after the break it was their first goal from one of Delap's projectiles this season.
When the ball landed in the Liverpool six-yard area, defenders and forwards thrashed at it as it ricocheted around. Jones tried to force it in through a forest of legs before Whitehead fed it wide to Etherington, whose pass gave Fuller the opportunity to poke the ball goalwards. Paul Konchesky blocked his first effort but the ball rolled back to Fuller who nudged it home.
Pennant, along with Etherington, added quality to Stoke's relentless pressing game. Fittingly, the former sent Jones through between the centre-backs for the clinching goal as Liverpool, having sent on two attacking substitutes and pushed Sotirios Kyrgiakos up front to try to retrieve a point, were caught on the break at the end of normal time. Lucas' dismissal merely added to Stoke's satisfaction at ending a 26-year wait.
Referee: Mark Halsey
Man of the match: Fuller
Match rating: 6/10
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