Stoke City defended superbly as they held a heavily rotated Liverpool to a 0-0 draw at Anfield in Saturday’s early kick-off, but are still destined for relegation from the Premier League.
Mohamed Salah uncharacteristically missed the chance to give the hosts a perfect start when he was sent through one-on-one with Jack Butland after just six minutes and dinked his effort over the goalkeeper and past the wrong side of the post from close-range.
Despite having 72% possession over the course of the match, the amount of chances both teams had was pretty similar and Stoke had their first opportunity after infiltrating space behind the shaky Joe Gomez.
Moritz Bauer easily beat the young defender on the left wing and crossed towards Mame Biram Diouf, who could only direct his header into the side netting; quite a large chance considering the space he had.
Liverpool only tested Butland once in the first-half, as Georginio Wijnaldum found Salah on the right flank with a superb switch of play before the PFA Player of the Year slid a pass into the box for the onrushing Trent Alexander-Arnold from midfielder, but his tame shot was easily dealt with by the English ‘keeper.
It was then Stoke who dangerously got forward and nearly broke the deadlock after a dangerous ball across the face of goal from Xherdan Shaqiri ever-so-slightly evaded a vital touch from the outstretched Diouf and Peter Crouch.
Danny Ings thought he had opened the scoring for Liverpool four minutes before the break but were denied by the linesman’s flag, cannoning a fierce volley into the roof of the net from a tight angle before being adjudged offside.
The majority of the action was happening in Stoke’s half in the second-half as Liverpool searched for a late winner and then the clash’s main talking point was to arise as they were seemingly denied a blatant penalty in the 87th minute.
Wijnaldum blazed in a cross that look set to fall for an unmarked Moreno in the six-yard box but Stoke defender Pieters got in the way by deflecting the ball with his arm and away from the Spaniard’s path.
The incident was out of the sight of Andre Marriner and you can see why it wasn’t awarded, but Liverpool fans and the players will feel aggrieved that they weren’t given the chance to clinch three points from the spot.
Paul Lambert’s side could have unbelievably won the match with the last moment of action.
Diouf latched onto the ball on the left side of the penalty area which Lorius Karius came out to and chipped a pass over the Liverpool ‘keeper and across the face of goal.
Captain Ryan Shawcross was the unlikely man waiting at the back post but failed to poke the ball into an open net with the left foot, which could ultimately be the moment that sends Stoke City into the Championship.
Liverpool fielded five changes ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League Semi-Final second leg where they’ll be looking to reach the final in Kiev, but fatigue can’t be used as an excuse for a lackluster performance here.
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