Liverpool came from behind in a professional 4-1 victory over the Potters, kicking off the first of a hectic three games in six days in style. Mark Hughes’ side started strong, with the aerial prowess of Jonathan Walters and ex-Red Peter Crouch causing Liverpool problems early on and the 33-year old Walters heading home on 12 minutes to open the scoring.
The Reds, however, weathered the early pressure, growing into the match as is becoming their custom and eventually running away with the proceedings after half time. Although their opponent’s direct approach was expected, Jürgen Klopp admitted that it was still hard going initially.
“The result doesn’t show it but it was difficult. Crouch was on the pitch again,” he laughed.” Which is kind of a sign about how they want[ed] to play.
“We didn’t have enough patience in the beginning and in our own possession. So when they played long balls, it was really difficult to defend with Crouch...probably when he’s 45 you can still bring him in a game like this. It was difficult.”
Although goals from Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino towards the end of the half gave Liverpool the lead going into the break, the game still felt in the balance. However, the German was able to make the key adjustments that have become a hallmark of his team’s exemplary performances this season, eventually going on to dominate the game in the second half.
“At halftime we told the players that our protection was not good,” he said. “The movement was not as good as it could be and then we came out and controlled the game.
“Like [the 1-0 win] against Everton, Stoke could not play the same in the second half because [the first half] was quite intense for them when they pressed pretty high and pretty aggressive.”
With most of their other rivals in the title race recording wins on Boxing Day, it would’ve been understandable for the Reds to have felt some degree of pressure to keep pace. Klopp, however, denies that this was the case:
“I thought I said it before the game, but we really are focused on our own way,” he insisted. “Of course we watch football as much as we can and we know the results, but this is not the moment when a season is decided.
“We have to fight for each point...and you need to be ready for each game. We are in the race, that’s good.”