Stoke City match report
After dropping points against both West Ham and Burnley, Stoke needed three points, compounded by results of teams around us.
Crystal Palace and Brighton both picked up points to put them beyond our reach. Southampton, meanwhile, picked up a huge victory to make their fixture with Swansea into an absolute nightmare for us.
We knew we were at the mercy of others results and it came back to bite us this week. A round of game-in-hand fixtures could all but relegate us if the results go against us. But for now we are still, just about in the mix.
A win against Palace and a favourable round of results elsewhere could see us go into the final week just a point from safety.
All fizz, no bang
This game was the story of the year really. Once again an impressive, organised performance was overshadowed by a lack of any real goal threat.
A couple of big chances once again went begging, but we only actually hit the target once all game. We were privileged to have been up against a Liverpool side on an off day, who struggled to really get any cohesion into the game.
Liverpool themselves only hit the target twice, although they did have a goal ruled out for a marginal offside.
Mo Salah missed one of the easiest chances he’s had this season after being put clear through our defence around five minutes in.
Jack Butland should have closed the space to put pressure on the Egyptian who was yards ahead of the defence, but stayed rooted to his line to allow the forward his pick of the goal.
For a player who already has 43 goals this season, you would have backed Salah to score but he somehow managed to place his shot wide.
Meanwhile, at the other end Mame Diouf stretched to reach a cross to the back post, but turned the ball into the side netting. Peter Crouch had an even better chance to put Stoke 1-0 up when he slid in to convert Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross, but the ball was just out of reach of the strikers gangly legs.
Stoke’s forrays forward often found us being caught out on the counter, but fortunately Liverpool were not able to exert any real pressure on Butland’s goal. That was pretty much the pattern of the game, as time drew on, Stoke began to drop deeper to defend the point they had.
It’s a bad trait of ours that’s cost us in the past but we were able to ride out the storm for the remainder of the game.
There was a question of handball late on, and Erik Pieters did have his hand in an awkward position, but it would have been a harsh blow for Stoke though.
A point could provide us with just enough confidence to finally beat someone and keep our hopes alive at least until the final week of the season.
Ryan Shawcross probably had the best chance of the game late on, after a well worked set piece from Stoke. A static Liverpool defence and some poor goalkeeping left Shawcross open at the back post with a clear shot on an empty goal.
But he was just not quick enough to react and couldn't really make any kind of decent contact with the ball, to better sum up the situation.
That one huge chance would have made a huge difference to our hopes of survival. The point is nowhere near as good for the confidence as all three points away at Anfield would be, not to mention closing the gap on Swansea, who we play in the final fixture.
We just lacked the quality to seize upon the opportunity and we have left ourselves very much at death’s door now; and in serious danger of finishing bottom of the league, something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago.
Pieters was the man tasked with the unenviable job of tracking Salah throughout the game. Whilst he did have a big chance early on, Salah wasn’t really at the races today.
Pieters did an excellent job of keeping the Egyptian quiet, silencing some of his critics, and rolling back the calendar to a time when he was one of the best players in the squad.