Another week another loss. Liverpool came to Stoke looking to cement a Champions League place. They got the 3 points they needed but for the first time in a while the boys made it difficult. Shaqiri made his first appearance since January, Klopp opted to field some young kids and Walters just loves scoring against The Reds.
The First Half
It looked like a perfect return for Shaqiri who had the ball in the Liverpool goal after only 2 minutes. The Linesman had his flag up though and judged him to be offside. Stoke kept pushing and Liverpool were on the back foot for most of the first half. It may have something to do with Jurgen Klopp choosing to play with 3 at the back. One thing we do really well when we want is exploit the wings.
Marco Arnoutovic came close in the early stages after a mistake by Dejan Lovren, but the Austrian smashed the ball into the side netting. It was going to be one of those days again when chances go begging.
Klopp was “forced” to bench Coutinho (Illness) and Firmino (Groin problems) and chose to start young Ben Woodward and Trent Alexander-Arnold. With a few minutes of the first half left Woodward was denied a penalty. Erik Pieters challenged the youngster but Mike Dean waved play on for what would of been the softest of penalties.
The following minute saw some good wing play from Glenn Johnson setting Shaqiri away. Shaqiri released a chipped cross into the box and Jonathon Walters was there to header from close range. His 7th goal against Liverpool.
The 2nd Half
Klopp made two changes at half time, swapping the two youngsters for the not so fit Brazilian duo. It took a while for them to warm up and Stoke were still on top at the beginning of the 2nd half. We should of been 2-0 up but Mignolet saved a Charlie Adam effort with his feet, after George Wijnaldum headed a dangerous ball across the box.
Liverpool upped their game as they went in search for an equaliser. Grant was called upon first from Firmino tipping the ground shot wide. Then a Coutinho low shot saw Grant pulling off another great save.
With 20 minutes left, Glenn Whelan’s attempted clearance fell to Coutinho inside the Stoke box. The Brazilian calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner (Cue meltdown). It took just 126 seconds for Firmino to latch onto a ball over the top. Free from the defence and with time on his hands, he decided to take the shot early. Grant had no chance as the ball flew past him into the top corner.
Stoke had a chance to level it up through Saido Berahino who found himself on the end of an Arnoutovic cross. Mignolet somehow managed to deflect the point blank effort with his thigh.
Another gallant effort against a top side. With less shots but more on target than the Leicester and Burnley games it seems the penny has dropped that shooting for shooting sake is a waste of time. With the last four games ending in defeat it is looking grim, especially as 36 points will not guarantee safety. With Hull up next its a must win game if only to boost moral.
Jurgen Klopp must surely feel like a tactical genius.