Premier League Match Report: Liverpool's love affair with the woodwork continues as Luis Suarez's laughable dive infuriates Stoke

Liverpool 0 Stoke 0

Anfield

There is no club quite so much in thrall to its own history as Liverpool and on the final whistle record books were flicked through to ascertain when they had last started a season this badly.

The answer was... two years ago, under Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson was given a little over five months on Merseyside and Brendan Rodgers will expect and probably be allowed years to complete his rebuilding of Liverpool. However, if the Liverpool manager had any doubts that the club’s American owners expect results, he only had to watch the Channel Five documentary in which John W Henry is seen chatting to the Boston Red Sox coach, Bobby Valentine, in the dressing rooms of Fenway Park during the summer.  Valentine has just had his contract terminated by the men who also run Anfield.

Thursday night’s 3-2 defeat by Udinese was the first of a series of seven straight matches Liverpool will play on Merseyside which will go a long way to shaping Rodgers’ first season here. This was an afternoon that summed up his first couple of months; Liverpool dominated possession and struck or grazed the frame of the goal four times without ever looking like they were going to win the game or even score.

“The crowd pleased me more than anything. We have won only two home games in the calendar year and it is nearly a year since we last won consecutive league fixtures,” said Rodgers. “To get that kind of constant support really means something.” It was the kind of support Hodgson never really received.

Seeing Stoke wearing the red and blue stripes made famous by Barcelona provided the kind of double-take that would come from seeing Ray Winstone playing Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey. Stoke will be Barcelona only when Catalonia takes an interest in rugby league.

At half-time, one former Liverpool great remarked that had Jimmy Case still been in his pomp, he would have sorted out what he saw as Stoke’s deliberate policy of roughing up Rodgers’ younger players.

The Liverpool manager doubted this was what his opposite number, Tony Pulis, had instructed and, in any event, they came through it well. When Daniel Agger drove the ball across the face of the Stoke goal, Raheem Sterling struck it against the outside of the post. It was the closest Liverpool came to a breakthrough – Agger, Luis Suarez and Martin Skrtel all technically hit the post but this was the only one that seemed likely to finish in the net.

“There was a challenge in the first half when Glen Johnson and Jon Walters went up for a header,” said Pulis, responding to charges of over-physicality. “It was a real, full-blooded challenge and I thought Glen did absolutely fantastically to bounce back up and get on with it.

“I went over to him and said ‘well done’, although I think the crowd thought I was having a go at him, but his behaviour was first class. Then, you have Suarez falling over in the box. That was really, really disappointing and should be highlighted.

“Retrospective decisions are made on a Monday and Suarez should be punished. The dive in the penalty area was an embarrassment. How he wasn’t booked, I don’t know.”

The Uruguayan had worked tirelessly but his dive would not have fooled a five-year-old. He had slipped under pressure and then thrown himself to the ground. It was laughable and until this issue is addressed Suarez, who was fouled relentlessly, will be looked at with disbelief every time he appeals to a referee. In the second half, he had a reasonable appeal for a penalty when pushed in the back by Robert Huth, who was one of six Stoke players to be booked. It was ignored.

So, too, was Stewart Downing, although Rodgers denied his omission had anything to do with Downing’s comments that he had had plenty of conversations with his manager as to why he was not being played. Rodgers’ own comment that players at Liverpool “who do not put their bodies on the line stand out like a sore thumb” was generally thought to refer to the winger. Downing had played well against Udinese but the defeat had been condemned by Rodgers as “ lazy” and “sloppy” and, during the opening exchanges against Stoke, lazy and sloppy were what Liverpool were.

First, Nuri Sahin passed straight to Charlie Adam, who might have scored had Pepe Reina not blocked his shot. Then the Liverpool keeper gave the ball straight to Steven N’Zonzi, who set up Michael Kightly for a beautifully aimed chip that would have been the day’s only goal had Reina not spectacularly atoned for his error by tipping the shot into the Kop.

It was only when Steven Gerrard delivered a fabulous drive that was pushed away at full stretch by Asmir Begovic that Liverpool began to settle and control the match.

It would have been fascinating to have seen Michael Owen at Anfield against the club to which he had contributed so much. Owen, however, on a day when all the teams he has played for were in action – Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke – was unable to play because of a groin strain. You would have to be very cynical to point out that one of the highlights of the sport Owen is accused of preferring to football, the Prix de l’A rc de Triomphe, was on television.

Get Adobe Flash player
News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
people
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits