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    Liverpool 4-1 Stoke City Match Report


    Liverpool's chances of qualifying for next season's Europa League were boosted on Sunday as a brace from substitute Divock Origi helped a much-changed side overcome the challenge of Stoke. A goal after eight minutes from Alberto Moreno set The Reds on their way and although the away side had more chances to score than the solitary header converted by Bojan Krkic, it turned out to be a comfortable afternoon's work for Jurgen Klopp's team.

    Origi enhanced his prospects of being selected for Thursday's crunch return leg in the Europa League even though the form of Daniel Sturridge may at the very least tempt his manager to include two strikers in his starting line-up. The England forward scored his eighth goal in 17 matches this season to put his side ahead for the second time and was also unlucky with a fizzing strike from long-range, which went narrowly wide. Liverpool were also afforded the luxury of handing full-league debuts to Sheyi Ojo and Kevin Stewart and the duo barely put a foot wrong, providing Liverpool fans with further encouragement that the club face a bright future under Jurgen Klopp.



    While Stoke were never at their best throughout the contest, they did create several opportunities but were twice thwarted by the in-form Simon Mignolet between the Liverpool sticks. The away side missed the creativity of Marko Arnautovic, who was ruled out of the match with a knee injury, while Danish keeper Jakob Haugaard struggled in goal throughout the afternoon. Peter Crouch did manage to find the back of the net against his former club by was denied by an offside flag as The Potters' long wait for a first league win at Anfield since 1959 continues for another season.

    The 18-time League Champions made seven changes from the team that battled to a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund with Origi, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Philippe Coutinho rested in the likelihood that they will play on Thursday. With Jordan Henderson injured and Emre Can suspended, it allowed Klopp the chance to hand two full-debuts in addition to giving Sturridge and Roberto Firmino the chance to stake their claim for selection against Dortmund. Mark Hughes welcomed back Ryan Shawcross from a muscle injury, while Geoff Cameron moved into midfield and the inclusion of Peter Crouch meant that Joselu dropped to the bench.

    Liverpool got off to the best possible start when Alberto Moreno scored his first goal of the season, and only his third goal for the club, with an audacious strike from 20 yards. The 23-year-old full-back was teed-up on his trusty left foot from James Milner's free-kick and he duly struck a ferocious effort that swerved on its way past the dive of Haugaard into the bottom corner. The set-piece had been uncharacteristically defended by Stoke, who switched off as Milner prepared to take it quickly and nobody picked up the unmarked Moreno before he unleashed a spectacular long-range strike.



    The home side were guilty of their own suspect defending midway through the half when Bojan Krkic, five feet seven inches tall, managed to evade his markers to head Stoke level from Xherdan Shaqiri's pinpoint free-kick. Five Liverpool defenders were occupied in marking Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch, who was standing at the back-post, but it was the diminutive Bojan whose clever run at the near-post was not picked up. The former Barcelona forward nipped in to guide his header past Simon Mignolet, from six yards, and duly score his seventh goal of the season.

    It looked like the visitors had taken the lead six minutes later when Peter Crouch, who has scored the most headed goals in Premier League history, steered Erik Peters' left-wing cross past Mignolet from six yards. Television replays showed him to be fractionally beyond Martin Skrtel, in the last line of Liverpool's defence, which denied the 35-year-old the honour of scoring his 48th headed goal against the club he served for three seasons. It proved to be a pivotal moment of the match as Stoke were unable to punish the home side while they were on top and ultimately allowed The Reds back into the game just minutes later.

    Daniel Sturridge was unlucky not to have put Liverpool back in the lead just prior to the half-hour mark when he rifled an effort from 20 yards fractionally wide of Haugaard's left-hand post but he wasn't to be denied moments later. The impressive Ojo was the architect of the goal, skillfully weaving his way past Shaqiri on the left-wing before picking out the head of Sturridge at the back-post with a pinpoint cross. The England striker made no mistake as he headed past Haugaard from a yard out to give the home side the lead for the second time in the game.



    Liverpool introduced Divock Origi into the action at half-time, in place of Oji, and it wasn't long before the Belgian international was scoring the goal that effectively put the game beyond the reach of Stoke. Five minutes after coming on, the 20-year-old found himself unmarked inside the six-yard box to head James Milner's cross past the hapless Haugaard from close-range. It was further evidence of the away side's uncharacteristic defending, with Crouch and Philipp Wollscheid both marking Kolo Toure and failing to pick up the run of Origi, who was in a central position just three yards out.

    Simon Mignolet was forced into making an excellent save to deny Geoff Cameron just after the interval from one of the The Potters' best chances in a half that was otherwise dominated by Liverpool. Mignolet had already been called into action just before half-time when Giannelli Imbula unleashed a 20-yard effort, which was heading for the bottom corner before it was saved low down to the Belgian's right. The stop from Cameron was equally as important as it required cat-like agility, when leaning backwards, to tip the American's close-range header from Shaqiri's free-kick over the crossbar.



    Liverpool twice went close to sealing the win around the hour-mark when Roberto Firmino was denied by Haugaard and Origi missed a guilt-edged chance to score his second goal of the game. Brazilian international Firmino tried his luck from a tight angle, 15 yards from goal, but Haugaard saved low-down at his near-post to push the strike wide the post. Just minutes later, a disguised back heel sent Moreno wide on the left and his measured cross found the head of Origi, but the unmarked Belgian headed wide of a virtual open-goal from just inside the six-yard box.

    Midway through the half, Origi made amends for his earlier miss in spectacular style to put the final gloss on what had already been an excellent afternoon's work for Liverpool. The 20-year-old picked up the ball wide on the left, 40 yards from goal with little danger on, and went on to score a virtuoso goal of supreme quality. He beat Shaqiri on the outside, came inside Phil Bardsley on the inside, before curling the ball low past Haugaard and into the bottom right hand-corner. While Origi's 20-yard strike may have been a cross to the far-post, it deceived a number of Stoke defenders and Liverpool attackers before finding the back of the net.



    It wasn't Liverpool's best performance of the season but they were still far too good for a Stoke team which made uncharacteristic errors in defence and failed to make the most of the opportunities that came their way. The Potters missed the creativity of their talisman Marko Arnautovic, while only Giannelli Imbula played well for the entire 90 minutes as Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri faded in the second half. It could have been a different story had Peter Crouch's header not been disallowed but such was the extent of Stoke's error-strewn defending that it was always likely that The Reds would create enough chances to win the game.

    For Liverpool, it was the perfect performance going into Thursday's vital Europa League clash against Borussia Dortmund, which delivered many elements of the  the 'full-throttle' and 'heavy metal' football that Jurgen Klopp's promised upon his arrival at Anfield. The lack of continuity didn't seem to quell the momentum that the club have built up in recent weeks and the changes appeared to freshen up the team after a tough match only three days earlier. Klopp will be encouraged that he has such a strong squad of talented players and keeping players fresh for key matches could be crucial whilst the club remain fighting on two fronts between now and the end of the season.



    Liverpool's victory enables them to climb from ninth to eighth-place in the league table, leapfrogging The Potters who are now a point adrift and having played two more matches than the 18-time League Champions. After Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg at Anfield against Borussia Dortmund, The Reds return to Premier League action away to Bournemouth at Sunday lunchtime. Stoke, meanwhile, entertain title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur on Monday evening in what could be a pivotal match in the race for the title, with Mauricio Pochettino's side trailing Leicester by seven points with five games remaining.
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool 4-1 Stoke City Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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