A SPIRITED and determined Stoke City performance secured the side a thoroughly deserved point from Sunday’s Barclays Premier League encounter with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
The Potters were forced to dig deep during the second forty-five minutes of the encounter to keep the hosts at bay, though they will feel slightly aggrieved to be leaving with just one point having squandered the best opportunity of the encounter.
Former Kop favourite Charlie Adam capitalised on a defensive mix-up inside the opening ten minutes, however, Spaniard Pepe Reina was fast off his line to block his goal-bound effort, when the Scotland international will feel he should have done better.
Michael Kightly also went close for the visitors in the first half, but the second half told a different story as both the post, on two occasions, and some brave last ditch defending secured Stoke the point that they deserved.
Prior to the encounter, Tony Pulis was handed a blow with the news that former Liverpool star Michael Owen would miss out on a return back to his former stomping ground having sustained a minor injury in training.
His absence paved the way for a return to the bench for Cameron Jerome, after he made a full recovery from a leg injury which had ruled him out of the side’s last two games against Chelsea and Swansea.
Pulis’ starting eleven was unchanged from the one that comfortably recorded all three points against Swansea City eight days earlier, with both leading scorer Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam retaining their starting roles against their former Club.
Despite the obvious desperation within the home areas of the stadium to record an opening home victory of the season, it was the Potters who started the brighter of the two side’s calving out several opportunities within the opening quarter hour of the clash.
Just five minutes in, the Potters were presented with a glorious chance of taking the lead as Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin misplaced a pass across his own 18-yard box straight into the path of Adam, but he failed to profit from some wayward defending.
A surprising early Stoke onslaught continued with Marc Wilson attempting an audacious 35-yard strike, however, his effort flew just over the bar with the Spaniard stopper appearing to be relatively untroubled by the Irishman’s effort.
At the other end, the dangerous Luis Suarez provided the City backline with some food for thought of their own as he twisted and turned his way past two players, only for Shawcross to superbly clear his attempted cross away from danger.
That proved to be the only respite of the opening twenty minutes for Liverpool as the visitors continued to press forward in search of the opening goal.
Glenn Whelan delivered a tantalising centre from deep inside the Reds half, after Crouch was man-handled by Martin Skrtel, but the former Liverpool star was just pipped to the ball by Daniel Agger just as he steadied himself to head the ball into an empty net.
More lacklustre defending gifted Kightly a sight at goal soon after and he almost took full advantage of that by dinking the ball towards the top left hand corner of the net, though Reina again came to his side’s rescue with a sublime save.
Bosnian star was then called upon to demonstrate his goalkeeping credentials, and he responded superbly by palming away a stinging Steven Gerrard effort, before gathering a dangerous Raheem Sterling centre in the hosts next surge forward.
As the game wore on Brendan Rodgers’ side began to grow in stature with Gerrard in-particular, beginning to have a greater say on proceedings.
It was he who forced Begovic into another smart save just two minutes after the interval with a rasping effort, which the ‘keeper brought under control at the second attempt, whilst Suarez then fired wide from 12-yards having skipped his way through the City rearguard.
Glenn Johnson tried from distance on two separate occasions, but failed to trouble the impressive Begovic with each effort. The home support began to groan in desperation as the hosts struggled to find any avenue through a determined Stoke back line.
Sterling, who has burst on to the scene at Anfield this season, crashed an effort against the outside of the post with 20 minutes remaining, whilst Suarez went equally as close with a similar effort minutes later.
Stoke continued to suck up all the Liverpool pressure and set off on their own surge forward, but Kightly was unable to find the unmarked Crouch inside the penalty area, when he would have certainly made it six goals in as many games.
Pulis introduced American international Maurice Edu for his City debut during the final ten minutes, whilst Rodgers introduced Oussami Assaidi and Joe Cole from the bench in a late bid to steal all three points for his side.
Both sides pressed during the dying stages, but it was Liverpool who came closest three minutes into stoppage time when Skrtel scooped a Gerrard corner across goal, with Suarez coming inches away from tapping the ball into an empty net.