Stoke City 0-0 Liverpool

In a repeat of the reverse fixture at Anfield at September, the match between Stoke City and Liverpool finished goalle s at the Britannia Stadium yesterday evening. While the game at Anfield was something of a heroic defencele s display from Stoke against a Liverpool battering ram, yesterdays match was nothing of the sort, with both sides having good chances to win the game, and, indeed, with both sides striking the woodwork twice. Tony Pulis madethree changes to his Stoke side that lost the last league game at West Ham two weeks ago, starting the fit again Dave Kitson in attack with Andy Wilkinson coming in for the injured Andy Griffin at right back. New signing Matthew Etherington also came into the side, slotting into the left wing position following his move from West Ham on Thursday. Midfielder and former Liverpool man Salif Diao was also due to return from injury, but pulled up lame during the warm-up, which allowed Glenn Whelan to retain his place in the eleven. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, fresh from his tirade against Alex Ferguson, had a fit-again Fernando Torres at his disposal, but opted to keep the talismanic striker on the bench, alongside Robbie Keane, opting for a forwardline of Dirk Kuyt with Steven Gerrard just behind.New signing Matthew Etherington takes of Jamie Carragher and Yo si Benayoun The visitors made by far the brighter start, dominating po se sion in the early minutes, but they were unable to fashion a proper chance until the eleventh minute, Kuyt only able to guide the ball wide with his head after being beautifully picked out by Albert Riera. The Dutchman really should have done better with Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen caught in no-mans land. The Potters created their opening of the game two minutes later, and really ought to have taken the lead. Rory Delap flung in a trademark long throw from the left, the ball being comfortably cleared by the Liverpool defence to Amdy Faye out wide for Stoke. Faye put the ball back into the box, and after some defensive confusion, centre back Ryan Shawcro s who had come forward for the throw was able to pick out Delap who had run into the box six yards out. The former Irish international struck the ball powerfully with his weaker left foot only to see it crash against the cro sbar before hitting Richard Cre swell and bouncing harmle sly away. In truth, a defter finish may have been more effective than the raw power Delap opted for. Mid-way through the half Stoke almost gifted Liverpool the lead, Glenn Whelan dreadfully squandering po se sion on the edge of the Stoke box. Kuyt was played in well but was denied by a sprawling save from Sorensen in the Stoke goal. It was the only difficult save George Springer Jersey the Dane had to make all match, but with the angle against Kuyt, it was one he would have been disappointed not to.Football legend Diego Maradona watches the game at the Britannia Stadium Stoke then believed they had taken the lead, albeit fleetingly, as Shawcro s powered a free header past Pepe Reina and into the Liverpool net after being found well by Etherington. The linesmans flag was raised for offside though, with the TV replays showing clearly that the decision was a good one and Shawcro s had strayed a yard past the Liverpool defenders. Stoke had been enjoying their best spell of the game, but it was broken just before half time, with Liverpool counter-attacking well, with Rieras final ball just evading the Stoke defence and, thankfully, Kuyt in the centre, who would most likely have scored if he had made contact with the ball. The second half began with the visitors looking to make amends for their poor first half showing, forcing two early corners, but it was Stoke who had the first real opportunity of the half ten minutes into it. Reina in the Liverpool goal completely mis-hit an attempted long clearance, which fell kindly to Kitson who found himself clean through on goal. The striker rounded Reina, but was only able to hit the side-netting from a tight angle and continues in his search for his first Stoke goal. His performance yesterday was though definitely one of his better ones since his move from Reading. On the hour came the moment the Liverpool fans had been eagerly anticipating, the introduction of Torres, who came on in place of Riera, who had been largely ineffective against the physical approach of Wilkinson. The Spaniards introduction clearly gave Liverpool a lift, and minutes latermidfielder Lucas Laiva had a great chance to score after he got free of his marker when a dangerous ball was whipped into the box. The Brazilian, who was voted on BBC Sport as the worst player on the pitch, showed why though, heading so badly wide that the ball did not even leave the pitch when he had the goal at his mercy. Stoke were then awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position and Whelan was denied his third goal of the season by the smallest of margins, his very well struck effort shaving the post when it looked to have Reina beaten.Whelans free-kick glances the post Kitson headed over another Delap long throw, when he should have done better before Liverpool launched a final offensive as the game drew towards its conclusion. Ryan Babel, who had replaced Yo si Benayoun five minutes earlier, picked up the ball on the left wing and showed excellent pace to get away from Wilkinson. Fearing the worst, the young defender who had been sent off in Stokes last home game against Manchester United chose to scythe down Babel,giving Liverpool a free-kickjust outside the Stoke boxthough the angle appeared to be against a shot. Wilkinson also received a booking for his trouble. In the return Houston Astros Jersey fixture, Steven Gerrard had a goal ruled out in only the secondmiute for a dubious offside when he fired in a free-kick from a narrow angle. He tried the same trick again this time, but the ball cannoned onto the angle of post and bar, eventually bouncing out for a Stoke throw-in.Defenders look helple sly on as the ball strikes the frame of the goal Gerrard, who is usually instrumental to Liverpools game was surprising quiet on the day, po sibly because of the constant abuse he received from the Stoke fans following his arrest for a sault two weeks ago. The songs of Gerrards going down and youre getting bummed in the showers, alluding to the po sible jail sentence he could face may well have effective him as he failed to pull the strings for the Reds. The England star did produce one final scare for the Stoke defence in the first of three minutes of added time at the end of the match though, bundling the ball onto the outside of the post after latching on to Torres flick-on after he had beaten Abdoulaye Faye in the air. A matter of inches meant the score stayed at 0-0, and the woodwork was struck for the fourth time of the evening. a draw was probably a fair result, but 0-0 belies the entertainment value of the match, and on another day it could easily have been 2-2 rather than a seemingly dull goalle s outcome. The point lifts Stoke up one place to seventeenth, a position that all Stoke fans would be more than happy with come the end of the season in May. Stoke always seem to raise their game when playing the big boys and another good performance will be needed if anything is to be gained from the very difficult away trip to Chelsea next Saturday.Stoke side: (4:4:2) SorensenWilkinsonShawcro s Abdoulaye Faye Higginbotham DelapWhelan Amdy Faye Etherington Kitson Cre swellSubstitutions: Lawrence for Etherington (78) & Pugh for Kitson (89)Subs not used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Sonko, Tonge, GriffinAttendance: 27,500
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