Friday 23 February 2018

Suarez leads Potters on merry dance as Reds march on

Luis Suarez was only a teenager when Liverpool last lifted any form of silverware but Kenny Dalglish's hopes of ending the embarrassing drought are improving after an outstanding evening from the Uruguay international.

Suarez produced a devastating display and two exquisitely taken goals to finally end Liverpool's struggles at this most unforgiving of venues.

His winner three minutes from time enabled the visitors to condemn Stoke to only their second defeat in 22 home games and maybe Dalglish can end this campaign with something tangible, with the FA Cup triumph five years ago an unwanted statistic.

Liverpool may have won the League Cup more than any other club, an impressive seven times, but their experiences of this competition have been frustrating since Gerard Houllier's side lifted the trophy in 2003.

Their last victory at the unforgiving Britannia Stadium was an 8-0 triumph in November 2000 but Stoke are made of far sterner stuff now, with Tony Pulis continually etching chapters into the club's recent history with each passing campaign.

Pulis and his team of party poopers have turned putting noses out of joint into an art form and have claimed the scalps of many illustrious managers ever since their elevation into the land of cash and controversy.

Dalglish was added to that impressive list in September, when Liverpool somehow emerged from the Potteries defeated despite dominating large portions of the match.

It was a similarly excruciating experience for Dalglish here. Despite making eight changes from the team that drew with Norwich, the visitors could have been home and hosed by half-time but for an inspired performance from Thomas Sorensen, who is surely enhancing his claims of a move away from the Potteries in the New Year.

Sorensen has had to get accustomed to being the No 2 goalkeeper but was excellent in the first half, denying Suarez at point-blank range before piling on more frustration for Andy Carroll with two saves. The Liverpool forward's partnership with Suarez may still be in its infancy but is not showing much sign of progress at the moment.

Stoke were strangely subdued in the early stages, probably due to the fact they were playing their third game in a week, but they sneaked ahead two minutes before the break after a defensive calamity that left Dalglish furious. Jon Walters forced an error out of Sebastien Coates, the Uruguay international, and then delivered a fierce cross that produced a brilliant close-range header from Kenwyne Jones.

But Dalglish was performing his trademark arms-aloft routine in the 53rd minute when Suarez produced a quite brilliant equaliser. Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, he bamboozled Ryan Shotton before bending his shot into the corner to finally end Sorensen and Stoke's resilience.

Stoke were clearly struggling to find any impetus as time ebbed away and Craig Bellamy, a substitute, nearly stole it when his shot struck a post.

But as extra time loomed, Suarez pounced to enhance Liverpool's aspirations of winning this competition for an eighth time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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