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. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 LA Galaxy

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:37 AM EDT

    Philadelphia Union v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    Sounders’ tendency to collapse resurfaces during the Galaxy’s biggest win of the season.

  2. Premier, Champions League quotas leave Mourinho desperate to sell Torres

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:07 PM EDT

    Torres Getty Images

    A terrible move could get worse if Chelsea can’t move the Spanish striker.

  3. Vertonghen confirms interest from Barcelona, intends to stay at Tottenham

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    Swindon Town v Tottenham Hotspur - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Belgian international intends to stay at White Hart Lane, with a new, five-year deal on the table.

  4. Van Gaal, Manchester United ready to move on from Fellaini, Kagawa

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT

    Marouane Fellaini AP

    Napoli, Borussia Dortmund linked to the potential United castoffs.

  5. Radamel Falcao on track to return at weekend’s Emirates Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:22 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-MONACO Getty Images

    Colombian international expected to play Saturday against Valencia.

  6. New York connection: Red Bulls, Cosmos come together on Lade loan

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    New York Red Bulls v DC United - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    Time in the NASL will give the 24-year-old needed minutes.

  7. Injured groin sends Rafael home early from Manchester United’s tour

    Jul 28, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    rafael Getty Images

    Brazilian’s injury testing United’s depth on the right side.

  8. Danny Williams finally undergoes knee surgery, will miss start of Reading’s season

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Reading v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    U.S. international’s knee surgery will sideline him for “several weeks.”

  9. Rodriguez, Schneiderlin close to joining Pochettino at Tottenham

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT

    Southampton v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    Two Saints look to follow their former manager to North London.

  10. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Portland’s Diego Valeri

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Diego Valeri's fifth goal of the season, his second game-winner in a row, gave Portland a 3-2 win in Montréal. (Credit: AP) AP

    Timber’s game-winning goal in Montréal separated him from a tight field.

  11. After Balotelli, Martinez take “selfies” with pitch invaders, should we be worried?

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    After two on-pitch selfie’s occur with players over the weekend, security needs to be stepped up.

  12. Brazil want Neymar to play at 2016 Olympics in Rio

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Getty Images

    Could Neymar represent Brazil at the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

  13. Everton buy smart, sign Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    muhamed_besic AP

    Besic, 21, has signed a five-year deal with the Toffees.

  14. VIDEO: Gareth Bale scores wondergoal for Real Madrid on US tour

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT

    Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Bale smashes in an absolute beauty from distance. Check it out, here.

  15. The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Southampton v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    After selling over $170 million of talent so far this summer, what are Saints playing at?

  16. US striker Terrence Boyd out injured after tearing ACL

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-RAPID WIEN-KRC GENK Getty Images

    Boyd out after injury in Queens Park Rangers friendly.

  17. Lionel Messi’s tax fraud case will go ahead

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Messi AP

    He may be one of the best soccer players the planet has ever seen, but Messi is not above the law.

  18. Arsenal confirm $27 million signing of Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Source: Arsenal FC Source: Arsenal FC

    Arsenal splash the cash to sign 19-year-old Southampton academy graduate.

  19. Harry Redknapp says Loic Remy failing Liverpool medical is “not possible”

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers' Remy reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton in Liverpool Reuters

    Did Remy fail a medical at Liverpool? ‘Arry isn’t buying it.

  20. British politicians call for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    Vladimir Putin AP

    Clegg, Downing Street, discuss Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.