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Jon Walters proved the scourge of Liverpool for the second successive season at the Britannia Stadium as the Merseyside team's disappointing run in the Potteries continued.
The boyhood Everton fan scored either side of Kenwyne Jones' header after the visitors had taken the lead through a Steven Gerrard penalty awarded in the first minute. The Merseyside-born 29-year-old was the match-winner on this ground in September 2011 with the only goal of the game from the spot, and his two strikes took him level with Ricardo Fuller as the club's joint leading Barclays Premier League goalscorer with 18.
But this victory also owed plenty to Stoke's ability to battle and unsettle opponents and recover from going behind so early on in the game. That ensured Liverpool left still seeking their first Premier League win at their bogey ground, with just two draws and three defeats in their five visits since Stoke were promoted. Tony Pulis's side secured a third successive home league victory over Liverpool for the first time since 1956-57 and extended their unbeaten league run at the Britannia to 16 matches, a sequence stretching back to February.
The hosts got off to the worst possible start when Suarez broke into the right-hand side of the penalty area in the opening minute and was pulled back by Ryan Shawcross at the cost of a spot-kick. It was the first time in 32 matches Liverpool had been awarded a penalty and Gerrard was in no mood to squander the opportunity as he coolly stroked home for the third successive league game - a feat last achieved in December 2007.
The visiting fans’ celebrations were short-lived, however, as the home side were not only level within three minutes but ahead with 12 minutes gone. A long ball forward could only be flicked backwards by Daniel Agger and, with Martin Skrtel losing his footing, Walters capitalised to place a composed shot past Jose Reina.
There will be questions asked in the Liverpool defence about Stoke's second from a corner as Jones was able to jump virtually unchallenged to head in at the undefended near post. It would have been worse for Liverpool had Reina not thrown up a hand to tip over Matthew Etherington's shot. The closest Liverpool came to equalising before the break was when Gerrard stabbed wide from Stewart Downing's cut-back on the left.
Half-time brought a change for the visitors with Raheem Sterling replacing Suso and the substitute almost had an immediate impact with Suarez bundling his cross wide at the near post, but Liverpool's hopes of getting back on level terms quickly were extinguished with Walters' second of the night. The defence failed to deal with a long throw as Jones flicked on for his strike partner to control the ball on his chest and hammer home a dipping volley.
With the hard work done all Stoke had to do was keep it tight at the back, something they have been good at this season with a top-flight best nine clean sheets, and look to hit break on the counter-attack. Liverpool failed to really trouble the defence of Asmir Begovic - the best being Gerrard's long-range curling shot which the goalkeeper palmed clear - as Suarez became a isolated figure up front.
Stoke's win moved them up to eighth in the table, within five points of fourth-placed Tottenham while a sixth defeat of the season leaves Rodgers' side rooted in mid-table.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "It was a great result and performance. The response after going a goal behind after just 30 seconds was absolutely fantastic and epitomises what the group are about at the moment.
"We've played games where we've created more chances and finished 0-0 so we have been creating the chances but not been taking them. We have tremendous respect for Liverpool and we are very proud to host a game against such a great club and when you beat them it gives you great delight, it is always special.
"[The third goal] was a great finish and I am very pleased for Walts [Jonathan Walters]. His commitment to the group is fabulous and he is a good player as well."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "We conceded soft goals after a great start. A bit of magic by Luis [Suarez] got our first penalty of the season, Steven sticks it away perfectly and we are 1-0 up at a difficult place to score goals.
"We wanted to gain the initiative from that but the nature of the goals we conceded was very soft and if you do that it is always going to be uphill in terms of getting a result. The first one is unfortunate as Martin Skrtel slips and Walters finished well but the other two goals we have to be better than that.
"It was too soft: a corner that sneaks in at the near post and then from a throw-in. You have to be better in those moments, especially against Stoke because you know that is a big part of their strength.
"It is not all about football. You have to earn the right to play, particularly coming here. I have no doubt about the characters we have but tonight it was too easy. What Stoke do they do very well. They responded after going behind, with some help from ourselves, and they deserved the three points."
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|29 Jan 2013||v Wigan (H)|