Stoke City 3 Liverpool 5 match report: Liverpool old boys Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam can't halt Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge
The Uruguay striker scored two goals as Liverpool rallied following Stoke's comeback
Just about everything that could go right for Liverpool did, plus they have Luis Suarez. Goals number 21 and 22 helped bounce Liverpool back into the top four on a day when Stoke brought misfortune almost entirely on themselves.
This was not vintage Suarez but it hardly seems to matter. Half a sniff is enough for this boy to ferret a goal. His first was handed to him by the benevolent society active in the Stoke defence. Marc Wilson, with a header back to his keeper that came up short, and then Ryan Shawcross failed to clear, allowing Suarez in.
His second was a brilliant finish following a smart exchange with substitute Daniel Sturridge, who did as much as any to ensure Liverpool went home happy. Stoke were full value in their guise as a footballing outfit retrieving a two-goal deficit in the first half and threatening similar in the second after Liverpool had restored their advantage.
When it’s your day, it’s your day. Liverpool were ahead after five minutes in circumstances that could hardly have been more fortuitous. Aly Cissokho’s shot was heading for Stoke town centre before it hit Shawcross and ricocheted past the helpless Jack Butland.
Liverpool were forced into plenty of defending in the opening half hour as Stoke piled forward in search of an equaliser. Simon Mignolet, who started the season so well following his move from Sunderland, looked increasingly unconvincing under the high ball, flapping badly at one cross and then punching another poorly.
On the break Liverpool were bright and dangerous, moving the ball quickly to the feet of Raheem Sterling. The Liverpool youngster has a lot to commend him. He is rapid and has quick feet. Judgement, though, is the part of his game that appears in greatest need of refinement. At the moment he appears to be stuck on the Shaun Wright-Phillips plateau.
The same cannot be said of Suarez, obviously, who is never anything less than direct. Goal number 21 of his truncated season came courtesy of catastrophic clumsiness in the Stoke defence, allowing Suarez to insinuate his way between Buckland and Shawcross to stab the ball home.
It was hard on Stoke, and left them in an unfamiliar position at home, where they have lost only once in 12 months. Mark Hughes urged his team forward from the technical area, knowing that a goal before half-time was the requirement. In the event Stoke delivered two.
For the first Marko Arnautovic cut inside off the left to pick out the head of Crouch, who steered the ball past Mignolet. The second was a beauty from Charlie Adam, smashing the ball left-footed from distance against his former club. Mignolet dived but it is doubtful he saw much of it as the ball whistled past his outstretched left hand.
So into the break they went all square, with Stoke fancying their chances of a serious scalp. Had they gone ahead in the early minutes of the second half as they might have done, who knows how this match would have ended. As it was Stoke invited Liverpool to set the agenda, Wilson again the offender sweeping the ball into the chest of Sterling, who made the most of the bounce to race away towards goal.
Charlie Adam of Stoke City celebrates after scoring his team's second goal
None in Stoke felt there was much wrong with Wilson’s challenge but the referee Michael Oliver pointed straight to the spot and Steven Gerrard stroked Liverpool back in front.
Even then Stoke came back at them. The Britannia Stadium has seen fewer goals this season than any other Premier League Ground, and here we were needing an abacus to keep up.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, did what he has done so often this year and brought off Philippe Coutinho just after the hour. His replacement, Sturridge made an immediate impact, taking the ball at every opportunity and linking beautifully with Suarez.
A superb turn to wrong-foot the Stoke defence allowed him to set Suarez free down the left. The move had goal written all over it, Suarez shaping his shot expertly past Buckland. Hughes was rooted to the spot. His team had enjoyed the greater possession and were always looking to attack, but each time they threatened to take control a mistake cost them.
To their credit heads never dropped. Jonathan Walters raised hope once more of parity, capitalising on confusion in the Liverpool defence with five minutes remaining. There was no sense that the scoring had stopped and no knowing who might score the next.
Sturridge had the final say of a mad afternoon. He has not played since November, but you would not have known it as he jinked his way on to the scoresheet. Gerrard played the ball long, Suarez delivered the killer pass for Sturridge to stretch the keeper at the far post. Buckland did well to deflect the ball on to the timber but Sturridge was on it in an instant, taking the ball away from goal before turning to smash Liverpool’s fifth.
And that was it, an outcome that could not have been foretold and was never totally secure. Liverpool won’t mind that at a stadium that has not been kind to them. Though they have won twice here in the League Cup never before had they triumphed in the Premier League.
Gerrard is back, Sturridge, too and Suarez can’t stop scoring. That’s a potent combination, and timely if they are to keep pace with Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Booked: Stoke City Shawcross. Liverpool Cissokho.
Man of the match Suarez.
Match rating 8/10.
Possession Stoke City 51% Liverpool 49%.
Attempts on target Stoke City 4 Liverpool 9.
Referee A Taylor (Greater Manchester).
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