Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City: Rotated Reds held at Anfield by relegation-threatened Potters

Liverpool might have had one eye on their UEFA Champions League prospects as they failed to find a breakthrough against Stoke City in Saturday's early kick-off.

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City: Rotated Reds held at Anfield by relegation-threatened Potters
Credit: Paul Ellis (Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL
0 0
STOKE CITY
LIVERPOOL: Karius; Gomez, van Dijk, Klavan, Moreno; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Alexander-Arnold; Salah, Firmino, Ings.
STOKE CITY: Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Shaqiri, Allen, Ndiaye, Bauer; Diouf, Crouch.

Liverpool weren't at their best in Saturday's early kick-off as Stoke City defended brilliantly to hold on to a 0-0 draw at Anfield to keep their dim hopes of Premier League survival alive, for now.

The Anfield crowd witnessed a rare Mohamed Salah mishit as he fluffed a glorious chance to get Liverpool off to a flying start after just six minutes.

Erik Pieters woefully overcommitted on the half-way line, disrupting the Stoke City defence and leaving plenty of space for Salah to be played in behind, but he looped his close-range effort over Jack Butland and into the side netting.

A rare piece of poor quality from the PFA Player of the Year and a huge danger sign for the away side, as if they needed one - he should've scored.

Stoke make the good start they needed

Joe Gomez made a shaky start at right-back, as Trent Alexander-Arnold filled in as an impromptu midfielder after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's season-ending injury in midweek, and awarded Stoke a chance to take an unlikely lead on 20 minutes.

The young Englishman mistimed a challenge on Moritz Bauer down the left flank which granted the Swiss full-back access behind him, before his cross to the back post was met by Mame Biram Diouf, but the forward could only direct his free header into the side netting.

Liverpool then went straight down the other end and tested Butland for the only time in the first half.

Salah was found on the right wing through a terrific diagonal ball from Georginio Wijnaldum and slid a pass into the box for the onrushing Alexander-Arnold, but his gentle effort was easily dealt with by the goalkeeper.

 

Ings denied opener by the offside flag

It was then Stoke who marauded towards the opposite goal and very nearly opened the scoring. A dangerous ball across the face of goal from Xherdan Shaqiri evaded a vital touch from neither Diouf and the long legs of Peter Crouch on the stretch.

Wijnaldum was next to go close after a deflected Roberto Firmino cross from the left fell to his feet 15 yards out from goal and he struck a fierce low strike just wide of the near post.

Home supporters were forced off their seats again by Salah after he was fouled dangerously close to the area on the right and curled the subsequent free-kick into the side netting with his ever-so-reliable left foot.

Liverpool thought they had made a breakthrough on 41 minutes through Danny Ings but were denied by the linesman's flag. The ball fell to the striker at a tight angle and he fired a tremendous volley into the roof of the net but was adjudged to be just offside. Correct call.

Liverpool fail to make use of possession

The sound of moans coming from home fans grew louder as the 60-minute mark approached as Jurgen Klopp's side found themselves going sideways and backwards with over 75% possession.

Klopp tried to change things soon after, as Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner replaced Alexander-Arnold and Ings with 25 minutes left on the clock.

Alberto Moreno was enjoying going up and down the left flank all game long and tried his luck with an audacious strike from 25 yards out, which flew agonisingly wide of Butland's goal.

Stoke have become accustomed to conceding late goals in the Premier League this season, and that would've been in the back of some of the players' minds as the second-half went on, but Paul Lambert's men continued to defend resolutely.

 

Reds denied blatant late penalty

All of the action was happening in Stoke's half in the final 10 minutes as the hosts searched for a late winner and then a huge talking point was to arise as they were denied a clear penalty in the 87th minute.

Wijnaldum put in a wicked 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 the referee 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.

Shawcross should win it for the visitors

Stoke could have unbelievably won the match with the last piece of action in normal time.

Diouf latched onto the ball on the left side of the box which Lorius Karius came out to and chipped over the Liverpool 'keeper across the face of goal.

Captain Ryan Shawcross was the 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 are still well on course for a place in next season's UEFA Champions League though, but will be looking to reach to final of this year's competition on Wednesday as they go to AS Roma with a 5-2 aggregate advantage.