Stoke City 3 Liverpool 5: Buoyant Brendan Rodgers backs strike force of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to keep Liverpool in title hunt
Liverpool rode their luck to reclaim fourth spot but also underlined the scale of the threat they represent with Suarez rampant and his partnership with Sturridge restored
Luis Suarez is unstoppable and with him in the team anything is possible. Yes, you could say Brendan Rodgers was happy. After scoring five at a stadium that Liverpool had never conquered in the Premier League, the restating of Suarez’s qualities in hyperbolic terms was perhaps understandable.
Liverpool rode their luck to reclaim fourth spot but also underlined the scale of the threat they represent with Suarez rampant and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge restored. Two more goals took the Uruguayan’s total to 22 in 16 games. Ridiculous. Sturridge, playing his first game since November, made an immediate impact, setting up a second for Suarez and adding one of his own.
“Luis is unplayable,” Rodgers said. “He can occupy a back four on his own with his movement and cleverness. The finish for the second with not a lot of goal to aim at was sensational. The work he puts in for the team is incredible. He is an outstanding talent. Both are outstanding players. You could see from their link-up play.”
Fate and fortune were against Stoke. Even Rodgers admitted the penalty that allowed Liverpool to restore their lead at 3-2 was soft, though he absolved Raheem Sterling from any malpractice. “It was a Spanish penalty,” he said. “[Stoke] will be aggrieved with that. You see a lot of them on the Continent. The defender makes contact with the man. It’s slight, but knocks him over.
“Raheem is a fearsome competitor. He is not the type to go to ground. He has had some decisions go against him. I don’t think he has gone down easily. The pace he was going at puts him over. He is not in that bracket [of players who go down easily], we just had good fortune.”
Mark Hughes went a little further in his assessment. “Soft, easy, any adjective you like,” said the Stoke manager. “Whether that penalty would have been given at the other end I’m not too sure. The ref has bought it. A poor decision.”
Hughes felt it was one of Stoke’s better displays as he steers the club away from the uber-utilitarianism of the old Tony Pulis regime. “We came back from 2-0 down, we were very much in the ascendency and the game is taken away from us. The key moments went against us.”
It is not Liverpool’s fault that fate was kind to them nor that Stoke were haphazard in defence. The result leaves Rodgers not unreasonably optimistic about what the second half of the season holds. “This is a brilliant win for us. This is a difficult place to play. With the teams around us all winning we knew we had to put in a performance. To come here and get five goals is excellent.
“We came here with 18 games to go; nine at home, nine away. Seven of the nine away are at teams in the bottom half. They are not gimmes by any means but we have shown enough to show that we will be challenging. That’s all we ever wanted. We just needed to be in the conversation. We have shown today we can score goals and that we are improving all the time.
“For 38 minutes it was a perfect away performance but we lost concentration and did not work hard enough to manage the game until half-time. When you play against good players you give away goals. Thankfully we can get goals ourselves. The response in the second half was brilliant.”
And encouraging from Stoke, which ought to keep Hughes warm in the winter nights ahead. “We showed real desire and determination to keep on going, which augers well for the games coming up,” the Stoke manager said.
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