Liverpool Talking Points
28 December 2016 Sport
Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to six points and moved to second in the league after maintaining their unbeaten home record with a convincing victory over Stoke.
Jon Walters headed home at his near post, highlighting the home team’s vulnerability in defence, to give Stoke an early lead.
But Liverpool responded positively after a disjointed start, with Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino scoring before the break as the hosts took the lead.
Jurgen Klopp’s men made sure of the win, which moves them one point ahead of third-placed Manchester City – whom they play on New Year’s Eve – when Giannelli Imbula directed Divock Origi’s cross into his own net.
Adding gloss to the scoreline was Daniel Sturridge, who scored his first league goal of the season – and Liverpool’s 100th under manager Klopp.
There was a period in the first half when Liverpool looked exposed. Simon Mignolet, again preferred in goal to Loris Karius as Klopp stuck to the team which started the derby win against Everton, should have saved Walters’ close-range header.
It was a mistake which will once again open up the debate over who should be the manager’s first-choice goalkeeper. But, in attack, the Reds were as quick, incisive and destructive as they have been throughout the season.
Liverpool have now scored 86 league goals in 2016 – their most in a calendar year since 1985 – and they ended the match having made a total of 20 shots, six of which were on target.
Once the impressive Lallana equalised, sweeping home from an acute angle after Glen Johnson failed to clear the danger inside his six-yard box, Liverpool were completely dominant.
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And there was a sense of inevitability when Firmino, allowed to turn unchallenged in the box, scored – his low shot bouncing in off the far and then near post.
As has been the case for the majority of this season, Sadio Mane and James Milner were key cogs, with the latter’s tireless runs down the left flank giving Stoke an extra worry.