Emdad Rahman from Anfield
Liverpool have maintained their unbeaten home record and closed Chelsea’s lead at the top to six points after hammering Stoke at Anfield.
The Reds’ defensive frailties were exposed early on as Stoke took an early lead with Jon Walters heading the match opener – only the third goal from the Potters at Anfield in 40 years. Although the home crowd were silenced, Liverpool didn’t let their heads drop and replied with two goals of their own before the half time whistle –through Adam Lallana, after an error by Glen Johnson, and Roberto Firmino.
In the second half, Divock Origi’s cross was diverted past Lee Grant by Giannelli Imbula for an own goal, before Daniel Sturridge took advantage of Ryan Shawcross’s calamitous back pass to score his first of the campaign – as well as Liverpool’s 100th goal under Jurgen Klopp. The goal came 56 seconds after Sturridge had taken to the field.
Stoke featured former Reds Glen Johnson and Joe Allen, and Peter Crouch made his first start since August. Crouch received the biggest cheer of the night when he was substituted in the second half by Mark Hughes. The Kop stood to applaud and there was even an airing of his old song too. With the result certain, the famous arena was empty straight after Marc Kenny’s “What’s it like in Liverpool?” had rung round Anfield.
In 2016 Liverpool have scored 86 goals, the highest tally since 1985. Going forward, the Reds were again swift, clinical and lethal. Liverpool have moved one point ahead of Manchester, whom they play on New Year’s Eve. It’s too early to call, but there is a swagger to Jurgen Klopp’s outfit which suggests the Reds may still be the strongest challengers to Antonio Conte’s march to the Premier League title.
•Additional reporting by Mohsin Ahmed & Moklisur Rahman