Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool : You're getting sacked in the morning

Stoke City 1
- Huth 90

Liverpool 1
- Kyrgiakos 57
Rafael Benitez was denied a victory to lift the intense pressure on him when Stoke grabbed a last-ditch equaliser at the Britannia Stadium.

It was never pretty, but this much-derided Liverpool outfit stood up to be counted in a physical showdown.

The theory that it could only improve proved correct in the 57th minute, when Fabio Aurelio's free-kick from the right was spilled by Sorensen and Kyrgiakos bundled the ball over the line from three yards.

Suddenly the mood changed. From having the home fans taunt him with choruses of "You're getting sacked in the morning", Benítez heard his name chanted by the travelling loyalists.

Stoke were plucky but prosaic – as one might expect from a team for whom no player has scored more than three league goals all season – and it speaks volumes for Liverpool's decline that they could not see them off. Last year's runners-up would have been out of sight by half-time.

The first surprise came early, with the announcement of the Liverpool team. There had to be sympathy for Benítez over the absence of Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun, who between them have contributed more than two-thirds of Liverpool's goals this season, but there was only head-scratching over the selection of Philipp Degen ahead of Alberto Aquilani in midfield. Degen, who regards himself principally as a defender, has been such a flop since his arrival from Dortmund 18 months ago that he had previously made only one start in the Premier League, at Fulham, where he was sent off.

Jose Reina, Kyrgiakos, Martin Skrtel, Javier Mascherano, Fabio Aurelio and David Ngog all returned in a side that was dreadfully short of fire-power.

Stoke had Tuncay available after a hamstring scare while Salif Diao came in against his old club, with Liam Lawrence reverting to the bench.


Stoke City: Thomas Sorensen, Abdoulaye Faye (Andy Wilkinson 26), Ryan Shawcross, Danny Higginbotham, Robert Huth, Salif Diao, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Etherington, Rory Delap (Liam Lawrence 24), Tuncay Sanli, Mamady Sidibe (Ricardo Fuller 66) .

Liverpool: Jose Reina, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Martin Skrtel, Emiliano Insua, Jamie Carragher, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano, Fabio Aurelio, Philipp Degen (Maxi Rodriguez 78), David N'Gog (Alberto Aquilani 88), Dirk Kuyt.


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