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Stoke boss urges action on Suarez dive that 'wouldn't fool five-year-old'

THERE is no club quite so much in thrall to its history as Liverpool and on the final whistle record books were flicked through to ascertain when they had last started a season this badly.

The answer was... two years ago, under Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson was given a little over five months on Merseyside and Brendan Rodgers will expect and probably be allowed years to complete his rebuilding of Liverpool. However, if the Liverpool manager had any doubts that the club's owners expect results, he only had to watch the Channel Five documentary in which John W Henry is seen chatting to Boston Red Sox coach, Bobby Valentine, in the dressing rooms of Fenway Park during the summer. Valentine has had his contract terminated by the men who also run Anfield.

Thursday night's 3-2 defeat by Udinese was the first of a series of seven straight matches Liverpool will play on Merseyside which will go a long way to shaping Rodgers' first season here. This was an afternoon that summed up his first couple of months; Liverpool dominated possession and struck or grazed the frame of the goal four times without ever looking like they were going to win the game or even score.



Support

"The crowd pleased me more than anything. We have won only two home games in the calendar year and it is nearly a year since we last won consecutive league fixtures," said Rodgers. "To get that kind of constant support really means something."

It was the kind of support Hodgson never really received.

Seeing Stoke wearing the red and blue stripes made famous by Barcelona provided the kind of double-take that would come from seeing Ray Winstone playing Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey.

At half-time, one former Liverpool great remarked that had Jimmy Case still been in his pomp, he would have sorted out what he saw as Stoke's deliberate policy of roughing up Rodgers' younger players.

The Liverpool manager doubted this was what his opposite number, Tony Pulis, had instructed and, in any event, they came through it well. When Daniel Agger drove the ball across the face of the Stoke goal, Raheem Sterling struck it against the outside of the post. It was the closest Liverpool came to a breakthrough.

"There was a challenge in the first half when Glen Johnson and Jon Walters went up for a header," said Pulis, responding to charges of over-physicality. "It was a real, full-blooded challenge and I thought Glen did fantastically to bounce back up and get on with it.

"I went over to him and said 'well done', although I think the crowd thought I was having a go at him. Then, you have Suarez falling over in the box. That was really, really disappointing and should be highlighted.

"Suarez should be punished. The dive was an embarrassment."



disbelief

The Uruguayan had worked tirelessly but his dive would not have fooled a five-year-old. It was laughable and until this issue is addressed Suarez, who was fouled relentlessly, will be looked at with disbelief every time he appeals to a referee.

Rodgers denied Stewart Downing's omission had anything to do with the player's comments that he had had plenty of conversations with his manager as to why he was not being played. Rodgers' own comment that players at Liverpool "who do not put their bodies on the line stand out like a sore thumb" was generally thought to refer to the winger. Downing had played well against Udinese but the defeat had been condemned by Rodgers as "lazy" and "sloppy" and, during the opening exchanges against Stoke, lazy and sloppy were what Liverpool were.

First, Nuri Sahin passed straight to Charlie Adam, who might have scored had Pepe Reina not blocked his shot. Then the Liverpool keeper gave the ball straight to Steven N'Zonzi.

It was only when Steven Gerrard delivered a fabulous drive that was pushed away at full stretch by Asmir Begovic that Liverpool began to settle and control the match.

It would have been fascinating to have seen Michael Owen at Anfield against the club to which he had contributed so much. Owen, however, was unable to play because of a groin strain.


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