Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Steven Gerrard and Jonathan Walters
Despite skipper Gerrard's endeavours, Stoke emerged with a point

Liverpool missed a chance to move into the Premier League's top five as they were held to a sixth draw in their last eight home league games by Stoke City.

Dirk Kuyt squandered the hosts' best chance late on, heading Jose Enrique's deflected cross wide from eight yards.

Martin Skrtel nodded over, but the Reds were mainly restricted to long-range efforts and substitute Andy Carroll's string of hopeful penalty shouts.

Matthew Etherington's powerful first-half shot was the closest Stoke came.

But Potters keeper Thomas Sorensen did not have to make a meaningful save as Tony Pulis's well-marshalled troops limited Kenny Dalglish's side to as few chances as any side to visit Anfield this season.

Liverpool and Manchester City started the day as the only sides unbeaten at home in the top flight and history suggested that Stoke, who had visited Anfield on 48 previous occasions without a win, would not be the first to win there this season.

Dalglish wants Liverpool attacking edge

The absence of a home defeat hides the fact that Liverpool had won only four of their previous 10 league matches at Anfield. And, with Daniel Agger missing, Dalglish's selection of a five-man backline, with the hard-working Kuyt as a lone frontman, looked ill-equipped to overwhelm a well-drilled Stoke side.

The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession but, despite Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson eagerly breaking from midfield in support of Kuyt and the introduction of Carroll and Craig Bellamy off the bench after the break, their attempts to thread their way through the heart of the Stoke defence were continually frustrated.

Before Carroll's entry in the 58th minute, there was little aerial threat for the Reds and it was Etherington who came closest in the first half.

After Jamie Carragher had carried the ball upfield in an attempt to spark the attack into life, the winger charged forward to exploit his absence at the back, but his crisp effort was well handled by Pepe Reina.

Charlie Adam had failed to get a decisive touch when an early corner skidded through to him at the back post, while Steven Gerrard, Downing and Henderson all chanced their luck from distance without success as the half drew to a close.

Sorensen's quiet afternoon in the Stoke goal continued after the interval as Glen Johnson dragged wide and it took only 12 second-half minutes before Dalglish introduced Carroll.

The crowd were lifted by the appearance of their record signing, who immediately made his presence felt as he wrestled with Robert Huth from a Liverpool corner.

Referee Howard Webb turned down his appeals for a penalty and was similarly unmoved soon after when Carroll and Kuyt felt they were fouled in the box by Ryan Shawcross and Jonathan Woodgate respectively.

A favourable decision from the official looked the home side's likeliest hope of a clear-cut opportunity before Kuyt had a great chance to score without Webb's assistance.

Pulis praises "brilliant" Stoke display

Enrique's deflected cross looped up invitingly for the Dutchman, but his powerful diving header flew the wrong side of the post.

Skrtel's effort bounced tamely over the bar shortly after but Adam's ambitious attempt from just inside his own half, trying to catch Sorensen off his line, summed up Liverpool's disappointing attacking display.

By contrast the visitors, who had taken 17 Premier League points from their previous eight games - a record only Tottenham could match - will reflect on another job well done.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "I think their penalty appeals were more out of desperation."

"Apart from Kuyt's effort - which he should have scored - I'm not saying Thomas Sorensen made save after save.

"They are a fantastic crowd here and they could see we were digging in and the players needed some help and by cheering the way they cheered every time ball went in there helped.

"Several referees might have buckled but thankfully Howard is strong and experienced enough to have not."

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