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Stoke frustrate Liverpool

2010-01-16 16:59

London - Robert Huth deprived Rafael Benitez of a vital victory as Stoke claimed a dramatic equaliser against Liverpool a minute from time at the Britannia Stadium to force a 1-1 draw.

Huth pounced from close range to ensure a frustrating end to a tortuous week for Benitez with Stoke's first ever Premier League goal against Liverpool.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos had appeared set to ease the pressure on the Liverpool manager with his first goal for the club. But a sustained period of late pressure from Stoke was rewarded right at the death.

In the face of severe criticism from former players and just days after a humiliating FA Cup exit to Reading, Benitez had attempted to bring light relief to Liverpool's troubled season on the eve of this daunting trip.

Before the corresponding fixture last season, Benitez produced a piece of paper from his pocket and proceeded to deliver a rant aimed at title rival Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager.

At his pre-match media conference at the club's Melwood training base, Benitez once again reached for his pocket and produced a piece of paper.

The difference this time was that the Spaniard did it as a joke, an attempt at raising the gloom that has descended on Anfield.

Despite Benitez's attempt at humour, the pressure remains on the Liverpool manager and the failure to beat mid-table Stoke will only lead to more calls from disgruntled fans for his six-year reign at Anfield to be brought to an end.

Alberto Aquilani and new signing Maxi Rodriguez started on the bench while Phillip Degen, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Aurelio all started on a day when Benitez was without five first-team players: Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson.

A trip to the bearpit of the Britannia Stadium is enough to test the most fragile of individuals and Stoke are a team that, despite their deficiencies, are masters at playing to their strengths.

A series of long throw-ins from Rory Delap typically unnerved the Liverpool defence early on in a frantic start.

Chances were at a minimum after such a cagey opening but Benitez was fidgeting with fury midway through the half when Lucas was clearly hacked down in the penalty area by Danny Higginbotham.

Not only did referee Lee Mason refuse to award a penalty but he booked the Brazilian for diving - emphasising the poor fortune Benitez is currently experiencing.

Stoke's mission to pile more agony on Benitez suffered a blow soon after that penalty decision when Abdoulaye Faye and Delap were both forced off injured.

The Potters, one of the lowest scorers in the Premier League, failed to test Reds goalkeeper Jose Reina once in the first half.

Liverpool were forced to weather an early aerial bombardment in the second period but stunned the noisy home crowd into silence in the 57th minute.

Aurelio's free kick was fumbled by Thomas Sorensen and Kyrgiakos bundled the ball over the line despite the frantic attempts of Higginbotham to hack clear.

Stoke did not test Reina until the 75th minute when substitute Ricardo Fuller headed Matt Etherington's corner straight into the goalkeeper's arms.

But a late bombardment ended with an equaliser when Huth stabbed in from a yard out after Etherington's corner had been headed back across the goalmouth by Higginbotham, then flicked on by Salif Diao.

Stoke pressed hard for a winner but it was Liverpool who could have snatched victory in the fifth minute of injury-time. Aurelio got clear on the left and curled in a superb cross that Dirk Kuyt, from barely five yards out, contrived to head against the post.

AFP

Comments
  • mark - 2010-01-16 18:53

    I think that it is about that Benitez got on his bicycle. The club is headed south. It was good while it lasted. Stoke a draw, come on!!!!

  • rob - 2010-01-17 05:25

    i agree with mark... rafa should get a move on now. how can a team with such big expensive names draw against a weaker team such as stoke?!?! liverpool can almost certainly kiss 4th place good bye... and wtf is up with conceding these late goals lately!!! arrrrggghhh it's depressing!

  • Joe - 2010-01-17 10:17

    Mark youre right..It's time Rafa goes. Reading and now Stoke,

  • Ming Lau - 2010-01-17 10:24

    I am a very strong supporter of 'Liverpool' club, but I strongly recommend that Rafael Benitez must resign now. He was very good previously, but now lately,he is totally useless. He kept making excuses after excuses. He is running out of excuses.He must go now. Wait and see,the club will start winning matches again with a new manager.

  • Faahim - 2010-01-18 08:09

    Liverpool, better start developing its team. It starts with the Manager.

  • Adam - 2010-01-18 08:17

    Come on you Reds supporters! Your team is just not good enough. You focus on two games only in season.... those against United. For the rest of the year you are like headless chickens. Concentrate now or else you can kiss the Europa cup goodbye also.

  • Naz - 2010-01-18 09:50

    As a Die Hard Manchester United fan I must say its not the same without your competition at the top, and I am not saying that in attempt to be nasty in Liverpools darkest hours... I really mean it when I say that you guys are a club steeped in illustrious history (like United) and to see you go down this way is really sad. Sure we all lose a game here and there, take us as an example, but we bounce back thanks to strong leadership, but I think it is beyond ridiculous with Liverpool now.. Time for some serious management changes is long overdue...

  • TRUE Red - 2010-01-18 10:41

    er, did you guy's watch the game ? we only had 4, yes FOUR regular 1st team player's as the rest are out through injury. Reina, Carra, Masch & Kuyt. We had 2 on the bench (Aquilani & Riera), so can only hope (and PRAY) that Rafa was saving them for Wednesday's MASSIVE game ! I understand why Carra was played out of position, but to give one of the most dangerous teams in the league from set pieces what, 13 corner's ?, is just STUPID ! I just pray at least Johnson, Agger, Aquilani & Riera play on Wednesday, otherwise Spurs are going to give us a hiding !

  • Dixie Dean - 2010-01-18 12:37

    I haven't being following Spurs lately, but I hope Robbie K. is fit to play on Wednesday and scores a hat-trick, just for the way he was treated at Anfield. BTW, I figured the problem with LFC is Sammy Lee, if you observe where ever he was involved as a coach, he was not successful, as coach of Bolton he won 1 out of 11.

  • Rafa da Star - 2010-01-18 12:46

    On current form there's are only 2 teams on Merseyside, Everton FC and Everton FC Reserves. Everton will thrash Liverpool on current form, no doubt. Stevie P will make Stevie G look stupid.

  • Kuven - 2010-01-18 13:53

    Bad team selection wants again Rapha has to go why save the players get the results against the weaker teams one good thing the other teams fighting for 4th positions did not do that well on the weekend.But seriously Liverpool needs a change of coach ASAP

  • Shankly's left nut - 2010-01-18 14:11

    one of the papers this morning has quoted Steven Gerrard, saying he will leave Liverpool in the summer. App Madrid, Man City (surprise surprise on both the money bags) and Inter are interested!! If he goes, Liverpool fc as we know it will be heading for Championship football. Another Leeds in the making i guess!!! Watch this space!!

  • Earl - 2010-01-18 16:15

    agree shankly, liverpool's problems is much worse than it looks unless a rich oil magnate relieve the liverfools from their woes

  • JustinD - 2010-01-18 16:40

    Bye Stevie G, I hope your loyalty was worth the lean years you had to put up with....

  • rayman - 2010-01-18 17:55

    i think benitez must leave 4 da beta of lfc!!!

  • MANUTD TILL I DIE@TRUE Red - 2010-01-19 11:06

    excuses excuses!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TRUE Red - 2010-01-19 14:45

    what excuses ? Let's see who DIDN'T play through injury : Johnson, Agger, Benayoun, Torres, Gerrard - that's half of the 1st team. Aquilani & Riera were on the bench - I know Riera is returning from injury & hasn't played in a long time, but not sure why Aquilani didn't start.

  • Big K - 2010-01-19 16:19

    Truered, when united fielded midfielders in defence and had some poor games and i tink we lost 1 or 2 games, we never blamed the lack of choices\first team defenders and we dint have them bcos of injuries( 8 out of 9 defenders were injured). We got on with what we had and got the results, scrappy or not!!!Liverpool is a big enough club with big enough players for them to adjust to any position if need be, like Carrick, fletcher, park etc did. Carrick had stated in an interview that he dint even play in defence in training and that West Ham game was the first ever (Sub, 2nd half). My point here is that if these players at Liverpool really wanted to win, they'd play their hearts out, in any position and pull of the results needed. You can see the frustration in Stevie G's face when your'l play K@% football and loose, Mascherano said that the players r too blame!! I also tink Benitez is a door knob of note (with his selection and formations), but still, i have to question the commitment of the players!! url r the same team that came 2nd last season with the exception of Alonso and Arbeloa and url had alot of injuries last season as well with ur big name players!!! Come now buddy, admit they playing lousy and dont deserve top 4 and move on, it will b good for ur stress levels cos u seem to b popping a vein with these blogs!!!

  • TRUE Red - 2010-01-21 10:11

    Big K, make no mistake, the player's are definitely to blame, i agree 110% ! They showed what they can do without all the big names in a massive game last night - now they need to do it CONSISTENTLY ! And don't worry bra, even if we were fighting relegation instead of a usual Top 4 finish I would support my Reds ! ;-)

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