Home » EPL, FA Cup, Latest » FA Cup Match Report: Liverpool 2 Stoke 1

Liverpool have endured a multitude of ups and downs during the course of this season and if cup success comes in waves, the club are now riding on a crest as they prepare for a second Wembley trip in two months.

After waiting 16 years for a visit to the stadium, a chiselled-out victory over Stoke City means you can now insert predictable jokes about London buses. The gag about Wembley being Anfield south may start to resonate again, too, especially if Liverpool return for the FA Cup final after thier Carling Cup triumph in February.

Kenny Dalglish did not suggest he had unfinished business when he returned to the manager’s chair last season. After all, he was the John D Rockefeller of honours during his first spell. It was more a case of trying to continue where he had left off, collecting silver and restoring the old ways.

Yet even in his distinguished career, nostalgia does not always conjure happy memories. Dalglish’s last FA Cup semi-final as Liverpool’s manager was a defeat to Crystal Palace in 1990, eight months before his resignation. It was perceived by many as the beginning of the end of that first reign. Reaching the last four this time may be a defining moment of his second coming.

Dalglish is fooling no one when he doubts the credibility of Liverpool’s place in the Premier League table, but at least no such kidology is necessary in the cups.

Should he win another major trophy this season, he will be entitled to tell everyone to ignore the league table while guiding visitors around the new arrivals in the trophy room.

In many respects, the performance was as patchy as Liverpool’s season. There were enough moments of individual brilliance to offer encouragement, but they were punctuated by periods of carelessness.

Ultimately, Liverpool won because they were prepared to accept the bruises which are inevitable when facing such a belligerent unit as Stoke.

Luis Suárez scored a fine opener on 23 minutes, providing a spot of beauty in a contest which was not always so pleasing on the eye.

Suárez, who has suggested he is keen to open talks on a new deal at Anfield, exchanged passes with Maxi Rodríguez 25 yards from goal and with minimal backlift found the bottom corner past Thomas Sorensen.

This was cancelled out because of Liverpool’s usual sloppiness when defending their own area. A corner was initially conceded due to José Enrique’s propensity to try to pass his way out of every predicament. After Ryan Shawcross flicked the resulting set-piece wide, the officials then erred by gifting another corner to the visitors.

This time Andy Carroll snoozed as Peter Crouch was left unaccompanied to meet Matt Etherington’s cross. Pepe Reina complained he was impeded by Ryan Shotton, but he was in suspiciously David De Gea territory in his impudence from the set-play.

Jonathan Walters should have given Stoke the lead before half-time when he shot into the side-netting, and with that the momentum shifted.

“I thought he should have hit the target,” lamented Stoke manager Tony Pulis, who justifiably saw the opportunity as a turning point.

Crouch’s equaliser was made redundant when Stewart Downing re-established the Liverpool lead after 57 minutes.

The left winger has regularly been used on the right to cut inside and take advantage of a powerful left boot. Finally, nine months into his Liverpool career, the ploy worked.

Downing was fortunate to get a return pass from the advancing Gerrard, but the finish belied his impoverished goalscoring record at Anfield. This was his second in 35 games, both coming in the FA Cup.

Despite the kind of aerial and physical onslaught which Stuart Lancaster would have admired as much as Pulis, Liverpool held firm.

Amid the towering presence of Stoke stood the diminutive, underrated Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing. When Spearing kept leaping for headers with Crouch, he momentarily transported Anfield to the land of Liliput.

The 24 year-old hardly gets noticed beyond Liverpool, but he has excelled in the last two games keeping Charlie Adam on the bench, and extending new members to his fan club.

Dalglish knew he needed giants to resist a late Stoke bombardment, and in Spearing he found it in heart and application if not in stature.

“It was as difficult as you would expect against Stoke,” said Dalglish. “They are very good at throw-ins and set plays and we had to throw our bodies in the way.”

There have been times when Dalglish has talked a better game than Liverpool have played. Not this week. With a trophy already won, another semi-final secure, and possible all Merseyside affair at Wembley on the horizon, only the rise of New Romanticism, return of large shoulder pads and the recommissioning of Brookside will complete Dalglish’s Eighties revival.

Related Posts

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.