Stoke dismantle Liverpool in an entertaining — yes, entertaining — affair at Britannia Stadium.
- The common sentiment before the last game of the day was that Stoke v. Liverpool would be a bit of a downer. While Villa’s capitulation at the hands of Spurs — Bale to Barcelona!!@#$%$ — might have taken the air out of what was an extremely entertaining day, the fixture at Britannia provided a fitting end for a lively Boxing Day of football.
- Under a minute in — 32 seconds to be exact — Howard Webb awarded a penalty to Liverpool. Kudos to Webb for disregarding the time on the clock, Ryan Shawcross held Luis Suarez’s shirt well into the penalty area. Steven Gerrard cooly swept the penalty home, putting the visitors ahead.
- Two minutes later it seemed Webb was a little too eager to hand out cards, dealing a yellow to American Geoff Cameron — a contender for newcomer of the year — for a relatively harmless challenge on Lucas Leiva.
- Stoke didn’t sit back. Kenwyne Jones defeated Daniel Agger in the air, heading on the ball to Jonathan Walters. Martin Skrtel’s blown tire allowed the Irish midfielder to waltz in unimpeded. 1-1. Who said we wouldn’t see any goals?
- Seven minutes later it was Jones again, beating Agger off a corner to give Stoke the lead in the 13th minute. Agger did poorly, but Gerrard should’ve done better on the near post. For all the grief Stoke receive for playing ‘negative football’ — whatever that actually is — this was the epitome of direct play. Long ball, win a header and finish well. No one said this style would be beat Barcelona on a hot, dry night at the Camp Nou. It doesn’t need to.
- Walters was buoyed by the play of the midfield quartet of Steven N’Zonzi, Glen Whelan, Matthew Etherington and Michael Kightly. Pepe Reina had to rescue his lethargic defence on numerous occasions.
- 12 minutes in the two teams combined for more goals than they had in four previous EPL fixtures combined. It could’ve been more if Gerrard (28th) and Etherington (43rd) converted on excellent chances.
- The Suarez-Shawcross matchup didn’t live up to its billing — the latter neutered by the early penalty concession and subsequent yellow card.
- Brendan Rodgers would need to do something, anything to get level against a club that relishes defending at home. Suso was replaced by Sterling. Soon after Suarez hit the post.
- That was as close as Liverpool would come to an equalizer. Jones — filling the role of the missing Marouane Fellaini this week — won ANOTHER header, this time off a throw in, setting up Walters for his second. It was a superb goal.
- The goal came at the north end of the stadium — where all of their highlight reel goals are scored. Peter Crouch anyone?
- Stoke climb above Liverpool in the table, and remain undefeated in nine games. Tony Pulis’ club is loathed for their brutish style — this was the first time in 44 matches they scored more than two goals in a league game — but the results don’t lie. Though often it’s anything but aesthetically pleasing, Stoke play with a plan in mind. Well done.
1. Jonathan Walters
2. Kenwyne Jones
3. Glenn Whelan