Monday, 1 December 2014

Brave Johnson Ends Poor Run

After a late strike in Bulgaria denied only a second win of the group stage for Liverpool, they returned to domestic duties eager to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat as Stoke visited Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

In a surprise change later explained by Rodgers, Steven Gerrard had to celebrate the 16th anniversary of his debut on the bench as he and Javier Manquillo were dropped from midweek as Jose Enrique and Phillipe Coutinho came in to the starting eleven.

A fairly dull opening from both sides perked up with a clever move from Raheem Sterling looked to be promising but sadly he was unable to fins a teammate in the Stoke box with the first effort of the game coming in the 27th minute as a long range set-piece from Rickie Lambert narrowly cleared the bar.

Jose Enrique carved up an opening that came achingly close to finding Rickie Lambert before a corner deflected into the path of Martin Skrtel who sent a volley just past the near post and the home crowd rose in the 41st minute when Lucas looked to have been upended by Glen Whelan in the box but the referee was unmoved by the appeals.

Liverpool looked to make a good start to the second period and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 51st minute when Jordan Henderson outfoxed the defence with a pass that found Rickie Lambert who in turn found Henderson who aimed for goal and despite a deflection could only find the side netting.

Stoke threatened at the other end when Mame Biram Diouf connected to Bojan's pass but before attempting a shot on goal was denied by Simon Mignolet who had come off his line successfully and on the hour, Stoke went even closer as Bojan advanced on goal and unleashed a powerful effort which struck the post.

Liverpool responded through Raheem Sterling who sent an effort just past the post and Lucas went close minutes later after collecting a Sterling pass but could only find the palms of Begovic who was called into action again when Rickie Lambert hit an effort at goal.

Rodgers made a significant chance in the 75th minute as Steven Gerrard came on to mark 16 years since his debut for the club but the joy could have been soured when Mame Biram Diouf swept the ball towards goal only to be denied superbly by a goal-line clearance from Raheem Sterling.

The clearance proved to be even more important four minutes later as Liverpool took the lead, Rickie Lambert arrowed a header towards goal which beat Begovic but cannoned back off the crossbar and a rapid reaction from Glen Johnson saw him head the ball over the line while taking a blow to the head from a Stoke defender attempting to clear.

Finally something for the Kop to celebrate at the final whistle as Liverpool secured a first win in November that ends a horrendous run of form and will be a welcome three points ahead of a hectic December schedule.