Stoke ride luck to grind out draw against listless Liverpool and add point to their Premier League survival bid

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City: The Reds could have been awarded a penalty late in the match but defeat would have been harsh on Stoke who battled hard throughout

Stoke fought hard to keep Liverpool at bay
Stoke fought hard to keep Liverpool at bay

Anfield was soundless. Jordan Henderson was on the floor having fallen like something had popped in the lower part of his leg. Liverpool’s medical staff had surrounded him immediately. Had his Achilles snapped? Or was it a problem with his ankle – maybe his heel?

Despite a long delay, fortunately for Henderson, he was fine to carry on. It was that sort of afternoon for Liverpool, who go to Rome on Wednesday for a Champions League semi-final. At this point of the season, with an outlook as positive as Liverpool’s, no further injuries will do, while Premier League fixtures are an inconvenience because their advantage over Chelsea is just about enough to justify rotation and a natural drop intensity.

Yet they still need results because Antonio Conte’s sides are chasing them hard and Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge next Sunday. As it stands, they have lost momentum in their domestic pursuits at least because of a failure to beat sides that are likely to be relegated on successive weekends.

This was Liverpool’s seventh home draw of the season. Stoke have the worst away record in the league. It was a result that gives them hope they can still stay up, especially with the teams they have left to play: Crystal Palace at home and Swansea away. It was also a result that makes you question whether Liverpool’s squad is deep enough to win trophies.

Virgil van Dijk competes with Peter Crouch

In fairness to Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool, any Premier League squad would be impacted by three injured midfielders. He is without the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emre Can and Adam Lallana. It is crucial, though, Klopp adds a top-quality attacking option this summer, not necessarily to give Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino a rest but simply to give him another option, to vary Liverpool’s threat and increase pressure on opponents like these. It is worth remembering that when Liverpool won at Stoke in November, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge were unused substitutes and they have since gone without really being replaced.

With better timing and better finishing, the scoreline, in fact, would have 2-2 after 22 minutes. Paul Lambert’s record at Anfield is excellent – no losses in six matches now, a record that also includes visits with Norwich City, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers. He knows what approach gets points here.

Mohamed Salah missed Liverpool’s best chance

Stoke were instructed to attack and this suited Xherdan Shaqiri particularly, who was up against Alberto Moreno – not a left-back respected for his concentration levels. Liverpool had missed twice by the time Shaqiri roasted Moreno – through Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold – while Mame Diouf had missed a chance for Stoke too. The closest to scoring, though, had been Peter Crouch who even with his six-foot seven-inch frame could not quite connect with Shaqiri’s sliding cross when he was dead centre in front of the Kop.

Shaqiri was playing like he was trying to impress. You cannot see him performing with the same appetite in the Championship. On the other wing, Moritz Bauer was causing Joe Gomez problems. Gomez has had injuries and somewhere over the last month, his confidence has disappeared. Leaden-footed, taking too much time in possession, he is ultimately making the wrong decisions. Last weekend, it had cost Liverpool at West Brom. His form will have to improve if he is to appear at this summer’s World Cup.

Danny Ings’ strike was ruled out

The second half was a continuation of the first. In his programme notes, Klopp had asked Liverpool supporters to “transmit energy” as if it were a European game. You must wonder what he thinks inwardly about these occasions, when the kick-off is early, the sun is high in the sky, the demographic of the crowd is different to what it is on a Tuesday night, and ultimately the arena with the reputation for being the most pulsating in the country at its best barely has a beat.

It is a riddle the club should be taking very seriously but it also does not help when the decisions do not go Liverpool’s way. A penalty should have been theirs when Gini Wijnaldum’s cross was handled by Erik Pieters. Stoke did not deserve to lose, though. Time will tell whether their efforts here will be enough to have helped save them.

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