Sunday, March 18, 2012

Live Thoughts: Liverpool vs Stoke (FA Cup)

I covered this match live. Here are my unedited thoughts on the quarter final FA Cup match between Liverpool and Stoke.

Welcome to another one of my live thoughts posts. This is a big match for us. A win today and we're back at Wembley. We weren't at Wembley for sixteen years and all of a sudden, an opportunity arises for two (or three) visits in one year. I love it. It's not going to be easy again today, but with us wooping Everton 3-0 earlier this week we're full of confidence and we need to continue that confidence today, and into the Premier League too. Let's see what the Reds can do.

Here are the teams:

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Maxi, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing, Suarez, Carroll; Subs: Doni, Henderson, Coates, Kuyt, Adam, Flanagan, Shelvey.

No Bellamy, Johnson or Agger. Maxi gets a start for a change, he's either hit or miss when he starts, he can be brilliant for us at times but other times he looks disinterested. Let's hope for a maximum performance from Maxi. Pun intended. A good line up, I'm confident.

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Shotton, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Crouch; Subs: Nash, Jones, Pennant, Upson, Delap, Jerome, Palacios.

It's a good side again for Stoke, strong in defence, some creativity in the middle and Crouch up front. Walters has scored against us this season already. A tough side but one we'd be expecting to win.

3' - Tug and pull beginning so far, we're trying to spray the ball around with mixed results.

4' - Yellow card for Martin Kelly early on, a nasty tackle on Matthew Etherington. Etherington is staying down. It was quite nasty. Unintentional, but nasty.

7' - Etherington gingerly gets up and is back playing. It was deserving of a yellow card.

10' - Stoke playing a little tough at the moment, rightfully so. They have the physical presence needed to compete against Liverpool.

11' - We've won more games away this season than at home - it's been a problem. But the display against Everton gives me confidence we can turn that round.

12' - Crouch! Easy save for Reina. No defenders were marking the big man which was a little concerning, but his header was tame and straight at Reina.

13' - That's an odd statistic, no Welshman has won an FA Cup as manager. That's really weird. Never knew that. Incredible.

15' - Glenn Whelan gets a yellow card for a tackle on Jay Spearing. Not as bad as Kelly's tackle earlier, but it was clumsy.

18' - Stoke starting to pile the pressure on Liverpool at the moment. A little concerning what with the match only being 17 minutes old at the moment. We started a little brighter, then there was a lot of physical battles, and the last few minutes have belonged to Stoke. We need to get the ball and play.

20' - Haha, great by Marc Wilson, a nice dummy takes out two Liverpool plays to go flying to the deck. I may be a Liverpool fan but I love a good dummy. I'm sure that'll be on Soccer AM next week.

22' - GOAL! Suarez scores a beautiful goal! We needed that!  He combines excellently with Maxi Rodriguez, a one-two and then he just shoots a crisp shot to the bottom right corner. Exquisite.

24' - Stoke attack right from the off and Andy Wilkinson whips in a dangerous and fierce cross that Jon Walters and Peter Crouch just miss.

26' - GOAL! Peter Crouch scores. Stoke pile the pressure over and over again and actually get a corner that wasn't. That corner was headed in by Crouch. Pepe Reina gets a yellow card for protesting a Stoke player putting pressure on him.

28' - Replays of the corner that wasn't, the ball came off a Stoke players head. Andy Carroll takes down a Stoke player and wanted a corner but instead it was a free kick. Tempers are definitely a little raised today.

29' - Four yellow cards now, Andy Wilkinson goes in the book for a tackle on Luis Suarez.

32' - Jon Walters in space runs with the ball towards the final third and shoots just wide of the post.

35' - Suarez laughs at the linesman for getting a decision wrong terribly. It should have been a Liverpool corner but the linesman gave a goal kick.

38' - It's a very physical match this. It's funny as the Liverpool/Everton derby match last week was quite nice, and here we are against a side we have virtually no rivalry with, and it's so much more physical than the match earlier this week.

41' - We're starting to look a little better now, we haven't been at our best today, Stoke have matched us for most of the match.

43' - Free kick just outside the penalty area for Liverpool. Gerrard's shot is over the bar.

45' - Two minutes of added time.

45+2' - Half time.

Well we haven't played that well in honesty. Or more accurately, Stoke have played very well against us. They've irritated us, they've been very physical, and they haven't let us have time on the ball. The most time we had on the ball was in the build up to the goal, a very good goal from Suarez. Stoke's response was fantastic, and even though it shouldn't have been a corner, Crouch's headed goal was a deserving equaliser. If we want to win today we need to play better, we need to keep possession of that ball and go at them. It's the best way to play Stoke, not get physical with them, they're very good at that. Play football against them. Let's see if our second half performance is better.

48' - Gerrard's free kick is tame and Robert Huth clears.

50' - We need to play better if we want to win. It's as simple as that.

52' - SUAREZ! So close! A free kick from the left wing comes in and Suarez reacts just a tad too slow to put some direction on his header, and it goes wide.

55' - That shot aside, we're still looking lost in link play.

56' - GOAL! Finally! Downing scores! An odd goal really, all of a sudden we just open up an opportunity, or more accurately, Downing opens up an opportunity, he runs down the right wing, takes a player on, passes to Gerrard and a clumsy one-two somehow goes back to Downing who gets back into the box and scores. It was the type of goal that Gerrard would score in honesty, no one on his wavelength and he just makes the goal himself! Great work!

59' - The game has livened up since the goal, we're on the front foot at the moment. Stoke haven't reacted as well as they did when we scored first which is good for us.

60' - Stoke Substitution: Ryan Shotton comes off for Jermaine Pennant. Welcome back to Anfield, Jermaine.

60' - Liverpool Substitution: Maxi Rodriguez comes off and Dirk Kuyt takes his place. Well Maxi assisted Suarez's first goal, other than that he's had a mixed game. A bit like his season really.

63' - Kuyt's first decent contribution to the match is a shot straight at Sorensen.

66' - We're looking comfortable probably for the first time in the match. We're playing the possession game, the game we like to play, and Stoke can't really make any progress at the moment which is good. We have control finally.

67' - Suarez! Good save by Sorensen. It was a long range effort from Suarez but it was bending to the bottom left corner, it was a nice strike. A little too far out and lacking in power mind, but nice.

68' - Haha, a Stoke free kick went terribly wrong. Everything was set up, the wall and everything, and a Liverpool player, I didn't actually spot who, basically runs straight to the ball and puts off the two Stoke players creating the free kick and it's all ruined! Great stuff.

71' - Stoke Substitution: Cameron Jerome is coming on in place of Matthew Etherington.

72' - Suarez tries the impossible, he dispossesses a Stoke player on the right hand side of the box, but it's a cluttered penalty area, so he tries to curl it around everyone, and it's way wide. Great idea, not good in execution.

73' - Stoke Substitution: Rory Delap is coming on for Dean Whitehead. That's all three Stoke subs now.

74' - Liverpool have a really nice counter attack going on, Gerrard whips in a long cross to Carroll who heads the ball to Suarez. He has Downing on his right, Carroll on his left and he... slips over. Ah well.

76' - The Kop are bouncing to Suarez's name in support of his efforts. He has been very good today, but he has tried too hard in times to do everything, the typical industrial Uruguayan.

79' - Jay Spearing finds some space and takes a shot and it's over the bar. Should have done better from that distance.

81' - Martin Kelly goes forward and a space is opened for him in the penalty box but his effort is dealt with really well by Shawcross who tackles to ground. Kelly is down from the collision.

84' - Every time Crouch has the ball up front, which hasn't been too often, he's been surrounded by Red shirts. We've dealt with the strikers really well this second half.

85' - I do want to go on record here to say I love Peter Crouch so much, he's an awesome fella and he did a great job with us all those years ago. Top bloke.

86' - Suarez has gone down, so has Kelly for the second time in five minutes. Concerningly Suarez didn't have any form of collision, I hope he's okay.

87' - Replays show Suarez got clipped by accident by Huth, he might have twisted his ankle or something. No idea. Bizarre.

88' - Double Liverpool Substitution:  Martin Kelly and Luis Suarez come off and Sebastian Coates and Jordan Henderson take their places. Suarez has probably been my man of the match, not that individually we have had a player that's been a stand out player.

89' - Gerrard is right back at the moment. I don't know if Carragher is going to move there, but at the moment Stevie G is playing in a position he hasn't played in for a good 10 years.

90' - Five minutes of added time. Good lord.

90+2' - Yellow card given for Marc Wilson.

90+4' - You'll Never Walk Alone is being sung at a massive volume now. You'd think we're going to Wembley for the second time in three months or something.

90+5' - Full time!

We're going back to Wembley! Two semi finals this season for Liverpool! Brilliant achievement for Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool. So happy at the moment. We've had such a fantastic cup run twice this season. Now we need to somehow avoid Chelsea and Tottenham in the semi final draw, but it doesn't matter in the end, it's always going to be a tough game at Wembley no matter who we get. We have a strong chance to win two cups this season. A cup double would really be a statement for Liverpool. Let's make it happen!

As for the match, the first half was tough. Very tough. But all the effort Stoke put into that first half was lost in the second half, and we played well enough to score a second goal. Once again we never gave a masterclass display, but we gave a decent one, and we scored another two goals at Anfield. Downing scored which is good for his confidence, as well as Suarez for his. There have been many positives to take out of this game, the biggest one being, we're going back to Wembley! Thanks for joining me again and have a good evening.

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