Liverpool frustrated by Stoke at Anfield

Sun, Oct 7, 2012, 01:00

Premier League round-up: Liverpoolendured a frustrating afternoon at Anfield as Stoke’srenowned battlers fought their way to a goalless draw.

A stalwart defensive display made it five draws in seven matches by Tony Pulis’s men, while a point will be scant consolation for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

It could have been worse for Liverpool, who twice almost pushed the self-destruct button, but ultimately this will be viewed as another disappointment in a stop-start season.

Rodgers made eight changes from the side beaten by Udinese on Thursday, after which he called his players “lazy”, and one of his targets, Stewart Downing, was not even on the bench.

Liverpool had been on the receiving end of a kicking from their manager in midweek, and got another one at Anfield at the hands of Stoke, who took their renowned physical approach across the line of legality on plenty of occasions.

But if Liverpool were keen to escape the sharp edge of their manager’s tongue, they hardly helped themselves.

Twice, goalkeeper Jose Reina attempted to pass the ball out to a midfielder; twice, Stoke scented a weakness and pounced, and twice it was only the reactions of the Spaniard which saved Liverpool.

Stoke had clearly anticipated Reina would refuse to launch the ball long, and the first time it was Nuri Sahin who conceded possession, giving Charlie Adam a chance to humiliate his former employees. The Scot advanced toward goal, but Reina was quickly out of the blocks to narrow the angle and parry the shot.

Liverpool committed the same mistake again soon afterward. This time it was Steven Nzonzi snapping into the challenge as another Reina pass went awry and Michael Kightly tried to flight the ball into the goal, but the goalkeeper recovered to turn it over at full stretch.

Having passed up those chances, Stoke reverted to type, striking long balls and stopping their opponents by foul means as often as fair, and the game disintegrated as a spectacle.

Hugo Lloris was a spectator for most of his Premier League debut as goals from Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon earned Tottenhama 2-0 victory over a poor Aston Villaside.

Tottenham occasionally looked vulnerable at the back, but were in control for the vast majority of the game and played some of their best football of the season.

Birthday boy Jermain Defoe, Jan Vertonghen and the mightily impressive Gareth Bale all came close to putting Spurs ahead in the first half, but the Londoners only broke the deadlock after the break through Caulker’s lucky first goal for the club.

Defoe smashed a low shot wide from a Bale corner, but the defender was standing in the right place at the right time, the ball clipping his heel and flying past Brad Guzan after 58 minutes.

Soon after Spurs put the game to bed when Lennon picked the ball up off Clint Dempsey, strode past his marker and shot beyond Guzan.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas made the surprise decision to end Brad Friedel’s run of 310 consecutive Premier League starts by giving Lloris his English top-flight debut.

The Frenchman, signed for £8 million on deadline day, looked solid for the majority of the first half and barely had a thing to do after the break.

He did not hesitate to come off his line, a criticism often aimed at Friedel, and he will be glad to have been in goal for Spurs’ first clean sheet of the season.

His only hiccup came just after the break when he threw a wayward ball to Vertonghen, but Villa failed to take advantage and Spurs ended the game full of joy knowing they had moved back up to fifth in the table with the win.

Jose Fonte’s last-gasp header secured Southamptona point and saved defensive partner Jos Hooiveld’s blushes in a 2-2 draw against Fulhamat St Mary’s.

The Portuguese centre back nodded home a 90th-minute leveller in a game in which he had broken the deadlock after just four minutes.

Hooiveld scored an own goal in Southampton’s 6-1 humbling at Arsenal and did so again on the south coast when he directed home a speculative John Arne Riise drive in the second half.

Hooiveld, who came on eight minutes into the clash after Frazer Richardson suffered a thigh injury, then saw Kieran Richardson’s close-range strike brush off him on its way in two minutes from time, although the goal was credited to the Fulham man.

However, Fonte saved the Dutchman and his side late on to earn Southampton a fourth point of the campaign.

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