Sadio Mane and substitute Mohamed Salah were the standout performers as Liverpool overcame a stoic Stoke City 3-0 at the Bet365 Stadium. Stoke had their fair share of chances, but couldn't take advantage as a heavily rotated Liverpool side claimed all three points.
The game opened with some good passing play from Liverpool, testing the Stoke City defense with Stoke keeper Lee Grant being forced to come and claim Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross. With the Stoke defense standing off Jurgen Klopp's men, the visitors were able to dominate possession early in the game, stringing some good passing moves together.
Even when out of possession Liverpool were intense, pressing and showing a high level of aggression, and eventually their efforts and overall dominance paid off . After some good work from young Joe Gomez on the byline, Dominic Solanke was able to play in Sadio Mane who coolly chipped Grant and opened the scoring for the visitors.
In response to the goal, Stoke opted to go for a far more direct approach, targeting the Reds' notoriously weak defense. However, in spite of the pressure Stoke applied Liverpool stood firm, although Xherdan Shaqiri came close with an effort blasted wide just before the half-hour mark.
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Throughout the remainder of the half, the hosts continued to up the tempo and test Liverpool, asking questions of their defense that culminated in a ludicrous challenge from the Reds' captain Simon Mignolet who brought down Mame Biram Diouf on the edge of the box and was lucky to not to be shown red.
The subsequent Shaqiri free kick crashed against the wall and was deflected wide resulting in a Stoke corner, though the Potters couldn't convert from the set-piece.
Upon the resumption of the match Stoke continued to test the Reds, with Liverpool truly being let off the hook after former-Red Joe Allen having his first-time effort deflected wide.
Attempting to utilize Peter Crouch to his full potential, Stoke reverted to classic route-one football, with Liverpool completely lacking composure of any sort in their own half, allowing Stoke to continuously threaten their goal.
Close to the hour mark, Stoke had an excellent chance to equalize, with Georgino Wijnaldum giving away a stupid free kick on the left wing. Shaqiri whipped it in, only finding the end of Mignolet's fists however, the ball fell to Diouf resulting in a lashing shot, subsequently blocked by Joe Gomez.
The first changes of the game were that of the visitors, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Solanke being taken off for James Milner and Mohamed Salah - two experienced players coming on, ostensibly to help Liverpool grind out a result.
All throughout the second half, up to the 70 minute mark, it was all Stoke, with the hosts creating yet another golden goal scoring opportunity with two ex-Liverpool men linking up. With the ball crossed in from the left wing, Crouch nodded the ball down to Allen who fired over the bar from 12 yards.
In need of an attacking change as they chased the result, Stoke brought off Eric Choupo Moting for Paris Saint-Germain loanee Jese Rodriguez.
Despite all the pressure from Stoke it was Liverpool who made the breakthrough in the second half with a beautiful bit of trickery from Mane allowing the Senegalese attacker to work his way into the box and set up Salah who finished with an emphatic first-time volley, into the to right corner of the host's net.
After Liverpool doubled their lead the momentum of the match seemed to swing massively, with Mane coming close to netting his second of the night with a diving header from a corner, though it sailed barely over the bar. However, it wouldn't be long until the Reds had their third of the night, with Salah racing past the Stoke defense and finishing one-on-one against Grant to pick up his 17th goal of the season.
Just as things looked as though they couldn't get worse for Stoke, Crouch fluffed his lines and missed a golden opportunity to claim a consolation goal. A long-rang strike from Jese was palmed away from Mignolet into the path of the lanky striker who scuffed the ball to Diouf who fired over from five yards.
That missed opportunity perfectly summed Stoke's evening as they missed every golden opportunity handed to the, allowing Liverpool to see out a relatively scrappy 3-0 win.