Johnson’s late strike for Liverpool releases pressure at Anfield
Brendan Rodger’s men win first in six while QPR see off Leicester and West Ham end Newcastle’s run
Glen Johnson stoops to head in Liverpool’s late winner against Stoke City at Anfield
Liverpool 1 Stoke City 0
Glen Johnson ensured Steven Gerrard’s demotion to the substitutes’ bench became a secondary talking point as the full-back proved the unlikely match-winner as Liverpool stumbled to a 1-0 Barclays Premier League win.
The England defender scored with a stooping 85th-minute header to end a three-match losing streak in the top flight in a laboured and often aimless performance.
Manager Brendan Rodgers claimed his struggling side had turned a corner in their season with a 2-2 draw against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets in midweek after opting for more substance and less style in his team selection.
On the basis of this performance it had merely led them into a cul-de-sac as even the restoration of Philippe Coutinho in the number 10 role failed to at the expense of Gerrard failed to produce any spark or creativity.
Gerrard took his place on the bench among €106 million-worth of talent recruited in the last window and was forced to watch the most turgid halves of football at Anfield since the short-lived reign of Roy Hodgson.
It was not much of an exaggeration to suggest the only incident worthy of a mention was the early substitution of Steve Sidwell through injury, only for his replacement Glenn Whelan to be taken off at half-time for former Reds midfielder Charlie Adam
Things improved in the second half but again, it didn’t require much.
Jordan Henderson, captain for the day, smashed a left-foot volley just wide before Simon Mignolet, under increased scrutiny after a string of unconvincing performances and a blunder in midweek, made the first save of the match when he denied Mame Biram Diouf after he was released by Bojan Krkic.
Raheem Sterling, Liverpool’s brightest attacking threat, fired across goal and wide of the far post before sliding a pass through to Lucas, possibly the worst of his midfield options faced with a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and the Brazilian fired straight at Asmir Begovic.
Lambert also side-footed straight at the Bosnia international before Sterling, again, created his side’s best chance with a cut-back to Joe Allen eight yards out which the Wales midfielder smashed against the crossbar. Stoke were defending grimly and Pawson waved away more penalty claims when Coutinho ran into Ryan Shawcross before Rodgers sent for Gerrard with 15 minutes to go. Mignolet, keeping only his third clean sheet in 25 appearances and Liverpool’s first in seven games, produced a brilliant save to deny Diouf at close range from a corner before
Liverpool snatched a winner five minutes from time. Henderson’s quality cross was met with a powerful header by Lambert and when the ball bounced down off the crossbar Johnson was fastest to react, charging in to plant a low header into the net and injuring himself in the process.
Liverpool could have done without the added seven minutes as a result and a nervous Anfield reserved some of its biggest cheers for a Kolo Toure hoof downfield and a solid catch by Mignolet as Stoke pressed for an equaliser.
Queens Park Rangers 3 Leicester City 2
QPR lifted themselves off the bottom of the table after emerging 3-2 victors over fellow strugglers Leicester.
Esteban Cambiasso gave the visitors the lead with a sweet finish in the eighth minute, before a Wes Morgan own goal saw QPR draw level. Leroy Fer grabbed the lead for the hosts just before the break only for Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise in the 67th minute. It was left to Charlie Austin, with his fifth goal in five games, to snatch the points for Harry Redknapp’s side with a close-range header.
West Ham United 1 Newcastle United 0
Newcastle’s hopes of winning seven league matches on the trot for the first time since Kevin Keegan was in charge came unstuck against one of their former managers. Sam Allardyce’s West Ham took the honours winning 1-0 thanks to Aaron Creswell’s 55th-minute shot, with the Magpies’ task not being helped by Moussa Sissoko being sent off for a second bookable offence.
Burnley 1 Aston Villa 1
Burnley’s decent form continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa but the Clarets were grateful to an 87th-minute penalty from Danny Ings after Lukas Jutkiewicz had been fouled. Villa had gone ahead in the 39th minute thanks to Joe Cole, who marked his first Premier League start since December 2013 with the opening goal.
Swansea City 1 Crystal Palace 1
Crystal Palace claimed a hard-earned Barclays Premier League point in a 1-1 draw at Swansea — with Eagles skipper Mile Jedinak providing a poignant equaliser.
Australia captain Jedinak paid his own tribute to his countryman Phillip Hughes, the Test cricketer who died on Thursday after being hit by a ball while batting, before kick-off when a bat had been laid on the field in honour of the 25-year-old.
Jedinak picked up the bat as a mark of respect to Hughes and was then a considerable presence in the Palace midfield as high-flying Swansea were stifled at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea started the day in seventh place with manager Garry Monk saying the next nine games would define their season — whether they could make a challenge for a European place or be looking over their shoulder at the teams below them.
They started well with Wilfried Bony’s sixth goal of the season giving them a 15th minute lead but Palace displayed the character and resolve which earned them a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in their previous fixture.
Palace equalised after 25 minutes when Marouane Chamakh fell under minimal contact from Jonjo Shelvey and Jedinak scored for the second consecutive game to earn the visitors a point.