Liverpool vs Stoke
- Lallana, Firmino, Sturridge and an Imbula own goal give Liverpool win
- Walters gave Stoke an early lead before Liverpool onslaught
- Sturridge scores his first Premier League goal since April after woeful Shawcross backpass
- Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City into second place and cut the gap to leaders Chelsea to six points with a third consecutive victory
A good win for Liverpool takes them back into second place, above Manchester City, who visit Anfield on Saturday (aka New Year's Eve), six points behind Chelsea. Thank you for joining me this afternoon. I hope you enjoy the rest of your festive holidays.
FULL TIME: Liverpool 4-1 Stoke City
Walters swings in an early cross but it is headed away easily by the Liverpool defence who have been relatively untroubled since Stoke took the lead early on. Liverpool win a corner and again it is taken short by Milner. Can gets in a cross but it is just too high for Wijnaldum.
Milner taking his time a throw in the Stoke corner. Some fairly disinterested passing going on now. Three minutes to be added.
Three minutes to go and Stoke know they are going home pointless and Liverpool will close the gap with Chelsea at the top of the table.
Substitution: Bony on for Crouch, who gets a very generous round of applause from the Anfield crowd. As Crouch heads to retirement, one of the last chances for my favourite Crouchy quote: Question: What would you have been if you weren't a footballer? Answer: A virgin.
Sturridge breaks into the right hand side of the box and cuts the ball back, but Henderson's shot hits one of his own players and the ball bobbles around before Liverpool claim a corner for their efforts. But that comes to nothing and Stoke almost break but Henderson stops that.
100 up for Klopp:
Substitution: Moreno on for Firmino, whose Boxing Day Plus was better than his Christmas Eve. Ten minutes to go. 4-1 to Liverpool.
Substitution: Afellay comes on for Diouf for Stoke and almost scores with what I think was his first touch, but the ball dips just over the Liverpool bar.
Thirteen minutes to go and Glen Johnson tries to roll back the years with a mazy run that manages to bobble the ball past a couple of his former teammates but comes to nothing.
Substitution: Stoke take off Whelan for Ramadan.
While that fourth Liverpool goal was mostly due to a woeful backpass by Shawcross, Sturridge still had to take the ball around the keeper which he did most calmly. Liverpool have scored three or more goals in eight of their 18 Premier League games this season.
GOAL! Sturridge! An awful backpass from Shawcross, finds only Sturridge and he finally scores his first Premier League goal since April. 4-1 to Liverpool.
Substitutions: Liverpool bring off Lallana and Origi and bring on Can and Sturridge.
Joe Allen has had his moments on his return to Anfield but for the most part he has been harried out of possession.
Milner again wriggles into the Stoke box and gets a looping cross to Clyne at the far post, but he's just off balance and can't quite muster the necessary power to beat the keeper. Halfway through the second half and Liverpool comfortable at 3-1.
A reasonable assessment of that third Liverpool goal:
Have Stoke got what it takes to get back into this? Not on current form, but it's a funny old game and a goal would possibly set Liverpool nerves jangling. Perhaps Hughes will bring on Bony to give City something a bit different. Or perhaps the former Man Utd star is resigned to yet another poor result at Anfield?
GOAL! Liverpool 3-1. Stoke fail to clear their lines, Origi passes the ball into the six yard box and Imbula gets to the ball just before Mane but deflects it into his own goal.
Lallana has a shot deflected wide for a corner. Another short corner and Liverpool keep up the pressure. Stoke eventually break free but their move comes to naught. And the ball is back with Liverpool. Just over half an hour to go. Still 2-1 to Liverpool.
Crouch gets the ball in the corner but miskicks and gives away a free kick. He grabs the corner flag and frustratedly pulls it out of the ground, drops it, then thinks better of it, picks it up again and puts it back in its rightful place. Crouch hasn't seen much of the ball lately. Oddly, for a very tall man, Crouch's best skills are at his feet.
Stoke have a promising attack but a great block by Milner stops Diouf at the cost of a corner...