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    Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool Match Report

    Second-half goals from substitutes Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino helped Liverpool to tighten their stranglehold on a top-four position with valuable win against Stoke City.

    The Reds had trailed 1-0 courtesy of a Jon Walters strike shortly before half-time but two goals in as many minutes midway through the second-half steered the match in the away side's favour.

    Liverpool needed to rely on two stunning saves by Simon Mignolet in order to come away with all three points, however, with the Belgian denying both Charlie Adam and Saido Berahino from close-range.

    The win enabled Jurgen Klopp's side to remain in third position, while they also retain the six-point gap they possess over fifth-place Manchester United in the race for Champions League qualification.

    Liverpool went into the game in excellent form after taking 11 points from their previous five matches but were keen to avoid a repeat of what happened three days earlier when they dropped two points at home to Bournemouth.

    Jurgen Klopp decided to rest Brazilian duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, with teenagers Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn starting the game and Joel Matip taking his place as part of a three-man defence.

    Stoke, meanwhile, had lost three successive games since coming away from the Etihad Stadium with a hard-earned point against Manchester City, but remained in a comfortable mid-table position with seven games remaining.

    The Potters made three changes from the team that lost 1-0 at Burnley, with Glen Johnson and Jon Walters both coming into the side, while Xherdan Shaqiri returned from a muscle strain to make his first appearance for Stoke since January.

    Neither team were able to stamp their authority in the early stages of a somewhat underwhelming first-half, although Ben Woodburn looked a threat whenever he had the ball and showed glimpses of the talent that he possesses.

    The 17-year-old went on a marauding run from inside his own half, beating three Stoke City defenders, before being denied by the back-tracking Bruno Martins Indi as he was preparing a strike on goal.

    Marko Arnautovic should have given the home side the lead after 32 minutes when he chased down Lovren's lofted clearance but he could only direct a first-time volley into the side-netting from eight yards.

    Liverpool believed they should have been awarded a penalty late in the first-half when Woodburn was fouled by Erik Pieters, but the Dutchman's intervention led to a Stoke counter-attact from which they took the lead.

    Shaqiri's Xherdan's nimble footwork allowed him to beat Ragnar Klavan on the right wing before a pinpoint cross was headed home powerfully by Jon Walters from three yards out.

    Jurgen Klopp's response to his side falling a goal behind was to make a double substitution, with both Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino introduced to the fold in place of Woodburn and Alexander-Arnold.

    The home side nearly doubled their lead, however, early in the second-half when Charlie Adam and Berahino were afforded the freedom of the penalty area before Adam's strike from five yards was saved spectacularly by the legs of Mignolet.

    Liverpool began to improve after their narrow escape, with both Coutinho and Firmino influencing the game from midfield and both players were involved in a move that led to Divock Origi narrowly shooting wide from just inside the area.

    Philippe Coutinho was next to try his luck, with Lee Grant pushing the Brazilian's first-time effort wide of the post, while Dejan Lovren crashed a header against the crossbar from the resulting corner.

    Liverpool brought on Daniel Sturridge midway through the second-half for his first start in two months and the substitution seemed to have the desired effect when he was involved in his side's equaliser.

    Emre Can crossed the ball into the England international's path, which was cut-out by Glenn Whelan before falling invitingly for Philippe Coutinho to slot into the bottom left-hand corner from 15 yards.

    The match was turned on its head two minutes later when the visitors took the lead courtesy of a route-one move that was ruthlessly converted by Roberto Firmino for his 11th goal of the season.

    Georginio Wijnaldum's long-ball over the top to Firmino bypassed three Stoke City defenders, with the Brazilian attempting a first-time half-volley which flew into the top-corner from 20 yards.

    While the strike was worthy of winning any game, it would only have earned The Reds a single point had it not been for the superlatives of Simon Mignolet, who denied Saido Berahino a certain goal with 17 minutes remaining.

    Marko Arnautovic's pinpoint cross picked out the England Under-21 international, who only had Mignolet to beat as he arrived inside the six-yard box but he was denied by a superb reactive save from point-blank range.

    Liverpool held on for a hard-earned three points, which had looked unlikely at half-time but was made possible by Klopp's double substitution and a having goalkeeper at the very top of his game.

    While Coutinho and Firmino will gain most of the headlines, it was the second-half performance by Simon Mignolet that will prove equally important if Liverpool are to finish the season inside the top-four.

    The win improves the club's chances of achieving their Champions League ambitions, although fifth-place Manchester United's 3-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday reduced their cushion to six points with The Reds having played two more games.

    Mark Hughes' side, meanwhile, lost for the fourth successive time in the Premier League, which leaves them eight points above the relegation zone with six games of the season still remaining.

    The home team worked hard to take a deserved lead into the break, while they created enough chances in the game to secure at least a point but were ultimately thwarted by an inspired goalkeeper.

    The Potters may have already done enough to stay in the Premier League for 10th consecutive campaign but the club will be eager to avoid a similar meltdown to what they endured in the latter stages of last season.

    Both teams return to action at the weekend, with Stoke entertaining in-form Hull City on Saturday afternoon before Liverpool travel to The Hawthorns the following day to face 8th-place West Bromwich Albion.
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    Item Reviewed: Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool Match Report Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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