It was a familiar outcome for the Reds as they registered their seventh league draw at home so far this season against a resolute Potters side who provided little attacking threatLIVERPOOL -- Liverpool notched its seventh home league draw of the season as it was held to a 0-0 by a determined Stoke City.
The Reds dominated proceedings throughout but could not find the breakthrough against a resolute Potters outfit.
Forward Dirk Kuyt had the best chance for the hosts, as he nodded wide from close range in the second half, but it was another anemic attacking performance from the Reds which further damages their Champions League hopes.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish made five changes to the side which beat Manchester City in the Reds’ Carling Cup semifinal first leg. Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll dropped out in attack as Dirk Kuyt returned, while a move to a five-man defense saw Sebastian Coates and Jamie Carragher make rare starts with Daniel Agger absent from the match day squad. They were joined by Jose Enrique, who made a cameo appearance against City, as youngster Martin Kelly moved to the bench. Charlie Adam also made his way back into the starting eleven as Jay Spearing failed to recover sufficiently from a hamstring strain picked up in the clash at the Etihad.
The visitors lined up much as expected, making several changes from the FA Cup victory against Gillingham. Matthew Upson dropped out for full back Marc Wilson to join the starting eleven as Ryan Shotton missed out in midfield with Glenn Whelan returning. Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome departed the Potters’ attack as Matthew Etherington took his place on the wing and Peter Crouch partnered Jon Walters up top.
The visitors were the first to register a threat on goal as Enrique unwisely allowed Walters to win a header and was fortunate to see Etherington spoon wide from the edge of the box.
That bright start for the Potters seemed to wake their hosts up however and the sheer unpredictability of their formation allowed them to find space with increasing ease. This was best illustrated by Steven Gerrard’s burst into space on the left which Adam did well to find, though unfortunately for the hosts, the Scot’s follow up cross was a wasteful one and easily repelled.
Adam almost atoned just moments later as he ran unmarked through the Stoke midfield to collect an Enrique pass in the box but he saw his shot brilliantly blocked by a sliding Palacios.
What followed was a period of frustration familiar to match-goers at Anfield as the Reds dominated the possession statistics but could find no way through. Both sides had started the game with lone front men and the game was the worse for the fact that neither was receiving adequate support.
The hosts were the first to try and make up for this issue as defender Martin Skrtel charged forward only to see his slide rule pass go beyond Adam and frustratingly beyond the far post.
They continued to push as Glen Johnson was the next defender to find himself in the box only to be denied by a brilliantly timed Huth tackle.
The half continued in much the same vein from then on and left Kenny Dalglish with a familiar quandary at halftime – how to break down a disciplined side at Anfield.
Though the home side started the second half much better, it was encountering the same problems in a stubborn defense and an inability to beat the first man from crosses. Jose Enrique found himself with a rare opportunity to break the line but had no men to aim for in the box as Liverpool failed to get forward in support.
The lack of a man to hit inspired Dalglish to look to his bench just moments after the half began as Carroll replaced the ineffective Downing.
The giant striker came close to helping his side break the deadlock after being on the pitch for just minutes as he seemed to invite a poor challenge from Huth in the box but saw the referee wave away his claims for a penalty.
A double penalty shout followed soon after as first Carroll and then Kuyt tumbled in the box within seconds of each other but referee Howard Webb waved both claims away, much to the chagrin of the Kop.
The Reds had another opportunity to take the lead though through their Dutch forward Kuyt in the moments following the appeals but, after a helpful deflection, the experienced attacker somehow failed to head home from close range.
Kenny Dalglish's men continued to push in the closing stages but it was to prove another of the days which have been all too familiar at Anfield this season for a side chasing the European places.