Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stoke 1 - 1 Liverpool

Stoke's Robert Huth denied boss Rafael Benitez a vital victory with a dramatic last-minute leveller against Liverpool.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos had given the Reds the lead, bundling home from close-range, after Thomas Sorensen's fumble.
Earlier, Liverpool had been denied a penalty after defender Danny Higginbotham brought down Lucas.
A late Potters corner was headed across goal by Higginbotham for Huth to poke home, then Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt headed against the post in a frantic finale.
The result did little to ease the intense pressure on beleaguered boss Benitez who had faced a barrage of criticism and calls for him to be sacked following his side's FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading on Wednesday.
Understandably, after their midweek defeat against the Championship strugglers, Liverpool started nervously.
That showed when Fabio Aurelio had the chance to send Javier Mascherano away on his own but tried a ridiculous 40-yard attempt to expose an out-of-position Sorensen that sailed miles wide
And with an unfamiliar line-up, that had £20m Alberto Aquilani and new signing Maxi Rodriguez start the game on the substitutes' bench, the visitors struggled to get into the game with Stoke starting brightly.
Twice keeper Pepe Reina was called into action by Rory Delap's long throws and having just about dealt with the first the Spaniard fumbled the second with the ball stabbed wide from close range.
But Liverpool started to warm into the game and Lucas saw his goalbound shot bravely blocked by Abdoulaye Faye.
The Reds were further boosted with Delap and Faye going off injured and the substitutions seemed to disrupt the hosts.
Under-fire Benitez defends players
But while Sorensen was not called into action once in the opening 45 minutes by an unimaginative Liverpool attack that was missing injured trio Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun, the visitors were denied a penalty midway through the half.
Lucas played a neat one two with Philipp Degen but as he latched on to the return pass he was brought down by Higginbotham.
The Brazilian was booked for diving by referee Lee Mason, with replays suggested Higginbotham made no contact with the ball, much to the annoyance of manager Benitez.
But just before the hour mark Liverpool eased the pressure on Benitez with a goal they barely deserved.
Higginbotham was wrongly adjudged to have fouled Degen on the right, and from the resulting free-kick Sorensen fumbled Aurelio's inswinging cross onto Kyrgiakos and over the line.
Pulis relieved after 'scrappy' draw
Moments later Tuncay headed wide at the back post for Stoke while substitute Ricardo Fuller's flicked header from Matthew Etherington's inswinging corner was straight at Reina.
With 12 minutes left Liverpool introduced new signing Rodriguez but it was Stoke who finished strongly.
Late pressure from Stoke resulted in a last-minute corner which Higginbotham headed back across goal for the unmarked Huth to tap home at full stretch.
And deep into injury time Liverpool could have snatched a dramatic winner but forward Kuyt diving header from Aurelio's cross crashed against the post from close range

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