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Luis Suarez scored twice and Daniel Sturridge marked his return to action with a goal as Liverpool overcame Stoke City 5-3 in a pulsating encounter in a rainswept Britannia Stadium.
The Merseyside club looked to be coasting to their first Barclays Premier League win at the Britannia when Aly Cissokho's speculative strike went in off Ryan Shawcross and Suarez scored his 21st league goal of the season. Stoke had other ideas, though, as former the Liverpool duo of Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam struck in a pulsating first half to peg back Brendan Rodgers' side.
Steven Gerrard put Liverpool back in front from the penalty spot on his 650th appearance for the club after referee Anthony Taylor awarded a spot-kick for a foul by Marc Wilson on Raheem Sterling. Sturridge was the architect for Suarez's second goal before Jon Walters set up a tense finale when he pulled a goal back. But Sturridge scored a goal of his own to seal the points and ensure Liverpool leapfrog Everton into fourth place in the Barclays Premier League. Defeat for Stoke was only their second at home in the league this season and Mark Hughes' side remain 12th, just four points above the relegation zone.
Sturridge was named among the substitutes after recovering from an ankle injury, while Kolo Toure paired Martin Skrtel at the heart of the Liverpool defence in the absence of the injured Daniel Agger (calf). Walters and Crouch returned to Stoke's starting line-up in place of Kenwyne Jones and Oussama Assaidi, the latter being ineligible to face his parent club. Goalkeeper Jack Butland made his first Barclays Premier League start as Thomas Sorensen was left on the bench.
Liverpool took an early lead at the Britannia Stadium last season and were in front after only four minutes on this occasion courtesy of a major stroke of luck. Cissokho's long-range strike was unlikely to trouble Butland until it struck Shawcross and flew past the wrong-footed Stoke goalkeeper and into the net.
Stoke could do nothing about the opening goal, but they had themselves to blame for Liverpool's second after 31 minutes. Wilson failed to get enough purchase on his attempted header back to Butland and the alert Suarez slotted home after Shawcross failed to clear.
The home side responded and Crouch gave them a lifeline eight minutes later with Stoke's first headed goal of the season as he was picked out by Marko Arnautovic. Butland got down well to deny Philippe Coutinho and Shawcross nipped in to clear the rebound, and suddenly Stoke were level, just before the break, when Adam let fly with a fine left-foot strike from 20 yards out that flew into the far corner.
But after the interval Liverpool were back ahead as Wilson was adjudged to have brought Sterling down and Gerrard sent Butland the wrong way from the spot. Sturridge made his eagerly awaited comeback 65 minutes in and the England striker took only five minutes to demonstrate his understanding with Suarez as his backheel presented the Uruguay forward with the opportunity to find the far corner with a clinical finish.
Walters was denied by a fine save from Simon Mignolet, but the Stoke forward beat the Belgium goalkeeper six minutes from time. Sturridge had the final say, though, as he was first denied by Butland, but kept his composure to fire home the rebound with his left foot. There was still time for Crouch to be denied by the post in an incredible end-to-end encounter.
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: "In terms of our performance we were excellent. Things have gone against us. We just gave ourselves too much to do today unfortunately. Defensively we made too many errors. We fell behind to a very unfortunate goal, which took a huge deflection, and then didn't deal with a long punt forward in the manner that we should have done, which gave them the second.
"We were then 2-0 down without them really having a shot on goal at that point, and that was difficult to take given the fact that they hadn't put us under any real pressure. The lads showed great character to come back into the game before half-time, and then we were thinking we have a platform to build upon and have a real go at them.
"We got ourselves back in the game again with a few minutes to go thanks to Jon [Walters], but then they score another slightly lucky goal right at the end to take the match away from us."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "They were brilliant. To come here and get five goals and put in the work and the effort is fantastic. I'm delighted for the players. We went out in the second half and we went again. That shows the character of the team. We made mistakes definitely, which wasn't so great and we'll assess that. But to come here and score five goals, and it's the first time Liverpool have won here in the Premier League, was fantastic."
"[Sturridge] was outstanding coming in after being out for so long, with his pace and movement. You can see for Luis's goal there, his pace takes him away and his skill to bring it inside. Two outstanding players and anyone will tell you the top players can play together."
|18 Jan 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|29 Jan 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|01 Feb 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|12 Feb 2014||v Swansea (H)|
|22 Feb 2014||v Man City (A)|