When you imagine a game at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke, you can almost see the binary scorelines coming in as you sit down and watch Soccer Saturday. You can imagine the 1-0`s, or 1-1`s rolling in each week and not bat an eyelid. However, This weekend treated us to something very different. I guarantee that absolutely nobody at 4pm on Sunday was even imagining a 5-3 wondergame. In a game strewn with defensive errors and striking masterclass, the fans were certainly the winners through the game.
The Potters got off to a pretty sluggish start, not tracking players down and not getting tight on Liverpool`s strike force, a problem would show as being deadly for Stoke, as on only the 5th minute, as Aly Cissokho`s long range strike found nothing but Ryan Shawcross`s thigh. This completely wrong-footed stand-in goalkeeper Jack Butland, and just like that Stoke were 1-0 down.
Liverpool kept pressing through a solid first half, and the pressing paid off as Brendan Rogers` side found themselves seemingly cruising with a 2-0 lead. It was a poor, poor goal as far as Stoke are concerned, and it was essentially a big punt upfield towards Suarez. A lack of dialogue between Shawcross and Butland allowed Suarez to step in and slot into a completely open goal. 2-0, and potentially the easiest goal that Suarez will score all season. At this point in the game, Stoke fans could be forgiven for reliving the League Cup disaster of 13 years ago, where Stoke lost 8-0. All was due to change though?
Stoke responded almost instantly, and attacked Liverpool. Stoke`s attacking paid off, as a beautiful cross found Peter Crouch`s head for the talismanic striker to find Stoke`s first headed goal of the season. Unbelievable to think that a team such as Stoke haven`t scored a headed goal in the league in 21 games isn`t it? This also made the phrase ‘Peter Crouch scores against his old club` officially the most used phrase in sporting history. Stoke weren`t finished there though, they brought a magnificent first half to a close with a sweet, sweet strike from another ex-Liverpool player. Charlie Adam has been known to score a few screamers in his life, and this has to be added to his collection. The ball fell to the Scot as he slipped, he quickly got himself up though and lashed a ferocious left footed shot through the legs of Martin Skrtel and into the corner of the net.
The second half came as quickly as the first half ended, and early into the second half, the onus was back on Liverpool again, as Gerrard slotted home from the spot. The sweet penalty struck by the England international wasn`t the main talking point though. Many Stoke fans felt aggrieved that the penalty was allowed to stand for 2 reasons. The first of which was the ball was deemed to be handled by Raheem Sterling as he broke free. Personally, I thought it was ball to hand and I can`t say that I would have awarded a penalty either. The second reason though is certainly a big talking point. Marc Wilson chased the ball down as he tried to redeem his error, and there was only a slight knock between Wilson and Sterling in the area, but Sterling went down and was instantly awarded the penalty. A decision that referee Anthony Taylor came out to the press and said that he did get wrong. It still counted in the game though, and it was 3-2.
The S.A.S were reunited midway through the second half, as Daniel Sturridge came on and partnered Luiz Suarez to bring Liverpool`s deadly strike force to another level, and the impact after 9 games out was plain to see for Sturridge. He instantly linked up with his Uruguayan partner and set him up with a beautiful pass for Suarez to curl an absolute beauty past the helpless Jack Butland. Sturridge moved to the right and instantly laid off Suarez who had it set up on a plate for him.
So it`s now 4-2, with 5 minutes left. Liverpool have this game wrapped up in the bag, and are heading for their first victory at Stoke in nearly 30 years, yes? No. Jonathan Walters set the game up for a tense, tense finish a superb pass from Marko Arnautovic slipped through to the Irishman. Walters had a lot to do though, but somehow found the net with a left footed drive that completely wrong-footed goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. 5 minutes remain in the game, and it`s now 4-3.
2 minutes later, Sturridge`s day was complete though, as Suarez sent him to the back post and after a moment of magic from Butland to keep Sturridge`s first shot out, he couldn`t keep the returning volley out as Sturridge hammered home under the legs of the goalkeeper to make it 5-3.
Somewhat unbelievably, with 3 minutes left, it still wasn`t over! A cross found Peter Crouch who smashed Mignolet`s post, and the possession of the ball was returned back to Liverpool. It still wasn`t over though, where in injury time, a Stoke corner was inexplicably fired at Mignolet from Gerrard of all people, forcing a superb save from the young keeper.
Finally, and somewhat unfortunately, Anthony Taylor blew for full time in a game that had absolutely everything. The Stoke fans stayed behind to applaud their players at the final whistle, because the work rate from both teams was 10/10. An absolutely superb game that will not be forgotten in a long time, by either set of fans.