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December 26, 2012
• Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Referee: H. Webb
• Attendance: 27490
J. Walters 5', 49'
K. Jones 12'
S. Gerrard 2'
And that is that for a Boxing Day feast of football. Thanks for reading, and good night.
Stoke leapfrog Liverpool, climbing to eighth, while the Reds drop to 10th. The Potters are now just five points off the top four - this is quickly turning into a strong season for Tony Pulis' team.
A draw at Stoke is looking more and more like a very good result indeed. Liverpool could not match the energy and enthusiasm of their opponents, whose dominant form at the Britannia Stadium continues.
90' + 4'
FULL-TIME: Stoke 3-1 Liverpool
90' + 2'
Nice one-two between Suarez and Henderson, but the former's shot is dragged badly wide. It's been a frustrating night for the Uruguayan - his endeavour cannot be questioned and he's been right at the centre of things, but not much has come off tonight.
Four minutes of added time to be played.
Gerrard receives the ball in plenty of space 25 yards out and curls an effort towards the top corner, but Begovic flies over to palm away. Good save.
Stoke's pressing has not eased one bit. Liverpool are having real problems getting out of their own half at times.
Suarez steps up to the free kick, but it's straight at the wall. He gets on to Cole's flick on when the ball is lofted back in, but no one can get a toe the forward's tantalising low cross.
Yellow CardGlenn Whelan
Suarez plays a one-two with Cole and Whelan slides in from behind to bring him down rather cynically. It's a booking for the midfielder and a free kick opportunity.
Not much chance of late revival the way things are going here. Enrique is guilty of a poor pass this time, but Sterling fights back well to win it from Cameron. Liverpool are spending less time in possession than they are retrieving it.
Shelvey loses his cool somewhat after a challenge with Huth, but escapes a booking. Huth tried to usher Shelvey away after they had contested an aerial ball but the midfielder was not interested in making peace and pushed his opponent away. Ryan Shotton replaces Etherington for Stoke.
Gerrard - not for the first time today - sells Cole short with a pass and Wilkinson nips in to intercept. He lays it off for Etherington, but the winger's cross isn't his best of the day and Liverpool clear.
Enrique delivers another fine ball towards Suarez, but his first touch takes him wide. The striker lays it back for Sterling, but his shot is deflected up into the air and Begovic catches comfortably.
Crouch replaces Jones, who leaves the field to a standing ovation. His goal looks set to improve the all-important one, but he's contributed a lot in terms of hold-up play tonight too.
It's Downing, in fact, who is withdrawn, as Cole heads out to the wing. Meanwhile, Stoke are readying Peter Crouch.
Joe Cole will be the next man to enter the fray for Liverpool as Shelvey receives a warning for a foul on N'Zonzi. He could be coming off.
End-to-end stuff now as the game becomes stretched in its final stages. Johnson cuts across from the right but tries a short pass instead of shooting, and none of Liverpool's runners read it.
A Wilkinson throw earns Stoke another corner, but Whelan's delivery is cleared.
Another goalkeeper-player collision, and this time Reina appears to be hurt. He dived bravely to claim Etherington's low cross and substitute Whitehead thudded in to him as he attempted a diving header. The Spaniard will be OK to continue.
There's a penalty appeal at one end, as Gerrard slides in on Jones - and it's borderline. Liverpool attack, with Suarez running across from the right, but his shot is blocked. He works the rebound wide to Gerrard, who slides it back to him in the six-yard box, but the Uruguayan is offside and Begovic collects anyway.
Downing takes it low but Wilkinson blocks and Stoke break. Kightly looks to be running away into space on the left, but Enrique is quick enough to catch him and force him backwards.
Tony Pulis is far from happy. He feels his team should have a throw-in, and is therefore angry when Suarez takes it and Downing is fouled by Shawcross right on the edge of the box. Chance here for Liverpool.
The ball is in the Stoke net - but the whistle has gone. Suarez dinks a pass in to Henderson in the box, but the midfielder slips and handles as he falls on the ball. A shame, as he showed some neat footwork to then return it to Suarez, who put it in the top corner.
Cameron catches Sterling as he tries to get away down the left. Sterling is limping, but will try to run it off. Gerrard's free kick from the flank is well claimed by Begovic.
To be clear - Suarez was trying to connect with the pass. But he was certainly slightly reckless and caught Begovic.
Yellow CardLuis Suárez
Collision in the box! Enrique chips a pass towards Suarez and as Begovic comes out to claim the ball, the Uruguayan flies in high and catches the goalkeeper. The Stoke fans are incensed, and Suarez is booked. He's also hurt himself, but looks set to come back on in a moment.
Liverpool regaining control now, but they have a lot to do. Enrique barges past Cameron on the left and flings a cross into the box, but Begovic is content to let it fly past him. Jordan Henderson is coming on for Liverpool.
Stoke look to have a great break on after clearing a Liverpool corner, but with two me racing forward Kightly miscontrols the ball and allows Johnson to recover. That's a waste - although the flag did eventually go up anyway.
Cameron attacks now, finding all kinds of space on the right. His cross is disappointing, though, and cleared. Liverpool need to be careful this doesn't get away from them very quickly.
Stoke look hungrier than Liverpool at the moment. Etherington is released on the left by Jones after a loose pass from Johnson in the middle third. Enrique clears his cross, but the ball comes back in to Jones - with his back to goal, he turns his man, but volleys over the bar.
Gerrard's corner from the left is redirected back across the box by Downing, but Johnson shoots well over the bar.
GOAL! That's a superb finish from Walters for his second of the game! Wilkinson's throw from the left is flicked on by Jones and the Irishman takes one touch on his chest before lifting a delicate volley beyond Reina from 12 yards. Liverpool are in real trouble now.
Suarez misses a great chance! Sterling makes an instant impact on the left, beating Shawcross and firing a low cross towards the near post, but Suarez can't get his boot around it enough and fails to hit the target from close range.
The second half is underway.
Suso is coming off at half-time, with Raheem Sterling his replacement. I'm a little surprised by that.
A quick review of the goals, on second look: it is hard to argue that Suarez did not deserve a penalty, even if he went to ground easily - Shawcross was holding a considerable amount of jersey. Agger, meanwhile, was guilty of losing Jones when Stoke took the lead.
Liverpool have had 64 per cent possession in the first half, in actual fact - more than I had expected.
After a blistering start, this game has slowed somewhat - but you would not bet against a few more explosions to come. Stoke responded brilliantly to Gerrard's opener from the spot but Liverpool have probably edged it since then. The Premier League's best defence, however, is holding out.
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME: Stoke 2-1 Liverpool
One minute to be added on at the end of the first half.
Excellent goalkeeping by Reina! Kightly looks to have taken too long on the right but somehow manages to curl a brilliant cross to the back post. Etherington is unmarked and takes one touch before volleying towards goal but Reina races off his line to block. Stoke think that the ball was out for a corner before the Spaniard collected it but referee Howard Webb waves play on.
Stoke's attacking threat has been all but extinguished now. There is a big gap that is repeatedly appearing in front of the Stoke defence which Liverpool are exploiting, but they're not taking advantage of the opportunities they work in those areas. Shelvey gets into the open space but his left-footed shot is easily collected by Begovic.
Suso and Enrique exchange passes and the former finds Suarez with a good ball to the middle of the pitch. He can't beat Huth and when the loose ball falls to Gerrard, he shoots a long way over the bar.
Suso is certainly not afraid to get amongst the Stoke players. He concedes a free kick for a slightly unorthodox aerial challenge in between Shawcross and Wilkinson. The young Spaniard has not been daunted by the challenge this particular fixture presents.
Suarez goes close! Downing slips a pass into the striker, who wriggles away from Cameron to run onto the through ball. The angle is tight, but his low shot is powerful and Begovic has to save well with his legs.
Liverpool are edging the possession stakes so far but it is no surprise to see Stoke ahead 14-2 on attempted crosses.
Enrique is under heavy pressure and his wild clearance is repelled by the head of Etherington. Walters might have pounced, but he knows he is offside and has to let the ball roll out for a goal kick.
Shelvey breaks through the middle with Suarez and Downing either side of him but his pass to the former is poor, and Cameron intercepts. It's not gone the young midfielder's way so far.
Whelan swings it in from the left, but it evades everyone despite Huth's best attempts to claim another corner.
Wilkinson chips in a cross from the right - it's not a great delivery, but Johnson does not realise how much time he has and heads behind. Corner kick.
Downing and Suarez advance towards the box on the left but the Uruguayan can only fire well over the bar after receiving a return pass from his team-mate.
Gerrard should score! Downing takes advantage of Cameron's slip to fire in a low cross which Suso intelligently diverts back to the captain, but he doesn't get great contact on his shot from the edge of the box and it bounces just wide.
Liverpool are keeping control of the ball for now. Moving Suso to the right, where he will come inside, and Downing to his natural left-sided role seems to have helped.
Close for Liverpool! Suso cuts inside from the right and finds Suarez in the box with a wonderful pass, but the Uruguayan can't kill the ball with his first touch and Begovic claims at his feet.
Walters lays a through ball on for Cameron to counterattack down the right. The full-back barges past Enrique and shapes up to volley a bouncing ball but Agger gets across to make an important block.
Great save by Reina! N'Zonzi raids down the right and his low cross is deflected by Enrique into the path of Etherington. The winger strikes powerfully towards the roof of the net but Reina is in position to tip the shot over the bar.
Liverpool are getting a grip on the game now, with Lucas exerting more influence in central midfield. He very nearly plays in Shelvey with a delicately-chipped pass, but the youngster cannot control the ball and Begovic collects.
Suarez releases Johnson on the right, and the right-back slides in the onrushing Downing. His cut-back is a dangerous one but Suso slips as he tries to turn to receive the ball, allowing Cameron to nip in and clear.
Suarez receives a pass from Shelvey on the edge of the box, but his first touch is too heavy and Huth steps in calmly to deal with the danger. This is better from Liverpool, although Suso had to be alert to bail out Gerrard after an awful pass right across the Reds' half from the captain.
You'd have to say that Stoke have edged this and probably deserve their lead. Liverpool have not mustered much at all since Suarez won a penalty in the opening minute - they look overpowered by N'Zonzi and Jones.
GOAL! Stoke take the lead through Jones! The Potters won a corner after Etherington volley across goal was blocked, and Jones met the delivery at the near post to squeeze a header past Johnson, who was guarding the goal-line but couldn't clear. Three goals in 12 minutes at the Britannia!
N'Zonzi is taking charge in the middle and he pivots a move that sets Walters free in the middle. He picks out Cameron on the right, but the full-back's cross is blocked by Gerrard. Reina does well to punch away the subsequent corner.
Stoke are taking the initiative at the moment beneath an intense atmosphere. Kightly aims a left-footed cross at the back post, but it's just too long for the giant Jones.
A red mist has descended on the Britannia Stadium - quite literally. Someone let a flare off after Gerrard's penalty, so this match is being played in a fog. Suarez's every touch has been booed since he won the spot kick, but it looked convincing to me. He may have gone down easily, but Shawcross grabbed a good chunk of his shirt. Foolish from the defender.
GOAL! Just like that, Stoke are level! Shawcross lofts a ball towards Jones, and he flicks on into the path of Walters. Crucially, Skrtel slips as he turns to run with the striker, allowing the Irishman to run through on Reina - he makes no mistake from 12 yards.
Yellow CardGeoff Cameron
Yellow CardRyan Shawcross
Penalty GoalSteven Gerrard
GOAL! What a start for Liverpool! Finally they have their first penalty of the season - and who else would win it but Luis Suarez? The Uruguayan is pulled down by Shawcross to the left of Begovic. Gerrard steps up and calmly sends the goalkeeper the wrong way to hand the Reds the lead.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL!
Off we go in Staffordshire.
Stoke, however, should prove a sterner opponent. They boast the league's tightest defence and have conceded just three times in eight games at home, where they are unbeaten.
So Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling remain benched for Liverpool after Brendan Rodgers admitted the duo looked in need of a rest. It worked last weekend, when the Reds beat Fulham 4-0 at Anfield.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard, Shelvey; Suso, Suarez, Downing. Subs: Jones, Carragher, Coates, Henderson, Allen, Cole, Sterling.
Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Kightly, N'Zonzi, Whelan, Etherington; Walters, Jones. Subs: Sorensen, Adam, Whitehead, Upson, Crouch, Shotton, Jerome.
We're not far away from kick-off at the Britannia Stadium. Here are the teams...
Good evening! Season's greetings, and welcome to Goal.com's live text commentary of this evening's final Boxing Day encounter between Stoke City and Liverpool.
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