Skip to content

How do you give up three to Stoke? Liverpool found out

Dec 26, 2012, 5:10 PM EDT

Liverpool's Skrtel challenges Stoke City's Walters during their English Premier League soccer match in Stoke-on-Trent Reuters

If Stoke City’s capable of putting on displays like Wednesday’s at the Britannia, Tony Pulis’s entire approach will need to be question. The Potters’ manager usually employs a rugged, defensive style that sacrifices aesthetics for the practicalities, recognizing a squad built around size and strength should stick to what it does best. On Boxing Day, they were compelled to change.

With Liverpool going up in the second minute, Stoke were forced out of their shell. Once there, the Potters proved capable of getting through Liverpool’s thin midfield and at a central defense that is proving increasingly problematic for Brendan Rodgers. The result was offensive explosion, the league’s worst attack depositing three goals behind Pepe Reina en route to a 3-1 win.

MORE: Everton prove viable without Fellaini

It was difficult to tell if the result was more Stoke’s quality or Liverpool’s failings. As in most games, both the winner’s virtues and loser’s errors were on display. The Potters showed a ability going forward they rarely endeavor to display, with John Walters’ two goals earning him deserved Man of the Match honors. Simultaneously, Reds’ central defenders Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, less than two weeks after struggling in a loss to Aston Villa, continued to show their limitations.

Both players are international quality defenders, but paired in the middle of Liverpool’s defense, they often seem too similar to complement each other. When Jamie Carragher was capable of starting in the middle, Liverpool had a central half that could do more of the tracking. Without him, Agger and Skrtel are often left a step behind.

Stoke’s first goal saw Agger slow getting under a header which, put back toward goal, allowed Walters to equalize after a Skrtel slip. Stoke’s second allowed target man Kenwyne Jones to put the Potters in front, while Agger failed to close down Walters ahead of the final goal.

MORE: Fabulous and flawed, Manchester United stay top

But only so much time can be spent dwelling on Liverpool’s failings before Stoke’s best performance in two years ges overshadowed. Walters complemented his trademark industry with surprisingly clinical finishing. The much-maligned Jones was able to compete with Liverpool’s physical defenders, while Steve N’Zonzi exhibited a class on the ball the midfielder’s rarely has license to show.

The only down point was Ryan Shawcross’s early foul on Luis Suárez, conceding a penalty kick for Steven Gerrard. Ultimately, the early Liverpool goal helped Stoke. Forced to go get a goal, Stoke played with a quality few knew they had.

MORE: Hart, Mancini failings on display at Sunderland

You have to trust Tony Pulis knows his squad best, but after Wednesday’s show, many will rightfully ask why Stoke can’t play that way more often. They were markedly better than a team which came into the day eighth in the Premier League, and while you wouldn’t recommend Stoke try to go blow-for-blow against teams like Tottenham (who they frustrated to a standoff last week), against most of the Premier League, a performance like today’s gets full points.

Maybe Pulis knows today was an aberration, but given how infrequently Stoke try to show their quality, it’s natural for onlookers to have doubts. With Pulis unlikely to change a successful approach any time soon, all we can do is hope the Potters give up more early goals, forcing them to play a more progressive style.

Latest Posts
  1. Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.

  2. Jozy Altidore is the happiest he’s ever been, says Gus Poyet

    Aug 20, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.

  3. Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    Malky Mackay has been reported to the Football Association for being involved in a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.

  4. WATCH: Kid asks Jamie Carragher if he was ever bitten by Luis Suarez

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT

    Jamie Carragher AP

    If Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher showed up to your training to sign autographs, what would you ask him?

  5. Mikel Arteta out at least two weeks with sprained ankle, will miss Besiktas clash

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Should age matter when evaluating a player's contract extension? Getty Images

    Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks.

  6. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Porto and Zenit win, all others draw

    Aug 20, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Hector Herrera

    Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.

  7. Liverpool and AC Milan in talks over deal for Mario Balotelli

    Aug 20, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Italy Training Session & Press Conference Getty Images

    Could Mario Balotelli be Liverpool’s answer to replace Luis Suarez?

  8. Vincent Tan ruins Malky Mackay’s chance of landing the Crystal Palace job

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Charlton Athletic - npower Championship Getty Images

    Malky Mackay can’t escape Vincent Tan after Cardiff owner files report with FA that prompts Palace to withdraw managerial offer.

  9. Cristiano Ronaldo questionable for Super Cup second leg with back injury

    Aug 20, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Will Cristiano Ronaldo’s back injury prevent him from playing the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup?

  10. Report: Warrior Football to be re-branded as New Balance in 2015/16

    Aug 20, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Warrior Shirt

    Liverpool fans can finally kiss goodbye that Warrior label but will that improve the designs?

  11. Preview: DC United, Montreal back in CONCACAF Champions League action

    Aug 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT

    Philadelphia Union v DC United - Disney Pro Soccer Classic Getty Images

    D.C. welcome Jamaican side Waterhouse to RFK, while Montreal head to El Salvador in CCL group stages.

  12. Marcus Rojo officially signs for Manchester United in $26.5 million deal

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    Source: Manchester United Source: Manchester United

    Red Devils finally land their man as Argentine defender signs five-year deal.

  13. Manchester United to pay Nani’s $8 million wages, in full, during loan spell

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    Manchester United's Nani is challenged by Chelsea's Lampard for the ball during their English FA Cup quarter-final soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester Reuters

    Nani is being paid his Manchester United wages in full… to play for Sporting Lisbon.

  14. Unsung hero: Luka Modric signs new four-year deal at Real Madrid

    Aug 20, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Before! Before!

    The diminutive Croatian midfielder will remain at Real after proving himself in the Spanish capital.

  15. Queens Park Rangers sign Dutch international Leroy Fer in $16 million deal

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

    Source: Queens Park Rangers Source: Queens Park Rangers

    Fer, 24, is back in the Premier League as QPR capture box-to-box midfielder.

  16. Atlanta’s new MLS franchise has already sold 14,000 season tickets

    Aug 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Don Garber AP

    Set to arrive in MLS in 2017, the league’s newest franchise has already sold a staggering number of season tickets.

  17. No Turkish delight for Arsenal: Ramsey sent off, Arteta injured, Wenger fumes

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    Wenger: “It’s very difficult to understand but, in the second half, the performance of the referee was very bad.”

  18. Thomas Muller reveals he rejected “astronomical” offer from Manchester United

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-BAYERN MUNICH Getty Images

    Muller: “The amount that foreign clubs were offering me was astronomical. But Bayern are my club.”

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1