Match Review: Stoke City 0-3 Liverpool

Make no mistake, it is hard work watching the Potters right now. Results are not going our way, supporter unrest, calls for the Managers head and now a heavy home defeat on a freezing cold night at the Bet 365. A 3-0 defeat to Liverpool has left me feeling very hard done by as the scoreline certainly does not reflect the 90 minutes that I saw.

Despite calls for a change of system following a defeat at Crystal Palace, our under fire Gaffer stuck with the wing backs and 3 defenders. However this time he recalled Bruno Martins-Indi into the centre of defence at the expense of Wimmer. Peter Crouch was to start up front.

The opening 15 minutes we sat too deep and showed far too much respect to Liverpool. They had most of the possession as they fizzed the ball around with pace and confidence. It therefore came as no huge surprise when they opened the scoring on 17 minutes through Saido Mane. The goal however was hugely controversial as the cut back from the by line by Gomez (that led to Mane scoring) appeared to go out of play. Having since viewed this on Match of the day I still find it hard to call. However we could have got the decision and to me it felt a huge injustice.

Hughes soon reverted to a 4-4-2 system which saw us have a good spell in the game after the goal. We got in amongst Liverpool, showed a real desire and created moments of danger. Liverpool remained a threat but I saw much more positivity from us which led to another hugely controversial moment. In fact that is an understatement.

On 39 minutes some Stoke pressure saw the ball fall kindly to Mame Diouf just outside the penalty area. Our Senegalese striker appeared certain to score with an empty net in front of him. However Mignolet in the Liverpool goal took Diouf out denying an absolute clear cut goal scoring opportunity. It had to be a red card without doubt, the only outcome therefore I was horrified when referee Martin Atkinson awarded a free kick and just yellow card.

This was an absolutely abysmal decision. Incompetence of the highest order, in fact Sunday league officiating. Not only did Atkinson get this so horribly wrong, but where was the linesman to help him out? Useless, the pair of them. The resulting free kick led to nothing and Stoke trailed 1-0 at the break.

The sense of injustice seemed to galvanise Stoke as we battled gamely after the break. However if I am being honest, Liverpool were still better than us as they moved the ball quickly with quality. The depth of such quality was evident when their Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah came off the bench on 67 minutes. Salah needed just ten minutes to score a fantastic goal thumping home Manes cross to effectively end the contest.

Our lads all of a sudden looked broken prompting Liverpool to go for the jugular. It therefore came as no surprise when Salah cashed in on some sloppy play from Eric Pieters to slot home and complete the scoring. An emphatic 3-0 defeat was harsh on Stoke and certainly flattered Liverpool.

On reflection, Liverpool are a good side with lots of quality and pace throughout the team. They were indeed better than us. However had Atkinson and his useless colleagues made the correct decision just before half time – we’d have played an entire half against ten players. I believe we would have taken something from the game under those circumstances. Such an appalling decision that probably won’t get much media attention because we are unfashionable Stoke City.

So another defeat. The calls for the Managers head intensifies and a huge game against Swansea now awaits. Should we lose that, I believe Mark Hughes will be in big trouble such is the widespread bad feeling at the moment. Tonight I felt the players played for him and gave their all. We lost to a quality side and 3-0 is without doubt an unfair reflection of tonight’s events. This however is little consolation – the facts read another heavy defeat and we hover perilously close to the drop zone.

Are we in a relegation scrap already? Am I over reacting? Not on current form. These are without doubt worrying times.

By James Lockett

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