Liverpool: If We Didn't Have SAS To Outscore Our Shocking Defence We'd Be Screwed
If you were Mark Hughes you wouldn't be happy with that.
A fairly obvious handball (let's be honest here, if you're charging down the ball with your arms up and the ball hits your outstretched arm then it's handball. If you control said ball with your elbow in order to divert it into your path it's definitely handball) leading to one of the softest penalties that you could ever wish to win and suddenly Liverpool are back in front in a game that they had threatened to throw away.
For once, the theory about luck evening itself out over the season is holding a bit of weight - I'll take that in recompense for the blatant penalty that Suarez didn't receive for Eto'o's assault on him, for the offside flag given to Sterling against City when five yards onside, for many other refereeing grievances. It's nice to get the rub of the green once in a while.
For forty minutes it had been, as Brendan Rodgers pointed out in his post match interviews, a perfect away performance; two goals to the good from a ridiculously deflected Cissokho shot that had been heading for the corner of the Britannia before Shawcross' intercession provided a fourth minute lead and a gift from the eternally woeful Shawcross' mis-kick to allow Suarez to increase his season's tally.
And then we went to sleep. Again. And again we failed to deal with a ball from the wing into the six yard box to allow Peter Crouch to become the first ex-Liverpool player of the day to score. Charlie Adam followed within five minutes; a stunning shot from distance after an unusual mistake from Henderson in midfield ensuring parity at half time.
The safe platform of a lead restored via Gerrard's penalty the most sensible option was to push for a win with the return from injury of Daniel Sturridge. His partnership with Suarez rekindled immediately; a moment of utter genius, a short flicked pass to set up Suarez' second goal of the day followed, even, more impressively by an inspired moment of ball juggling from chest to head to left foot on the turn to net after Butland had impressively saved his initial shot. Obviously these two moments sandwiched a third Stoke goal, this time scored by a lifelong Evertonian to follow the two ex-Reds.
There should be relatively unconfined joy. Liverpool have never won at The Britannia. Liverpool haven't managed to beat Stoke in the jaeger for thirty years. Liverpool always struggle against Stoke. Stoke have only conceded seven goals at home all season. Today we travelled there and put five goals past the opponents. Suarez and Sturridge look more lethal by the match. Gerrard looks as comfortable in a holding role that he has been told that he will occupy more often in the future as you would expect a player if his quality to appear. There seem to be very few teams that we can't out score.
And yet, and yet...
Our back four is a constant worry. Much as we adore Kolo Toure (for the spirit that he has brought to the team from his first day as much as anything) he and Skrtel are far from a natural pairing, the return of Mamadou Sakho cannot come soon enough. Worrying as that may be our main concern is the full back situation. Alex Woo outlined the Glenn Johnson issue perfectly on Saturday; there is something seriously wrong with our right back's game at the moment and it looks no closer to any kind of resolution but this is as nothing to the problem on the left flank. Aly Cissokho may well be in situ purely due to the injuries to Enrique and Flanagan but there is every possibility that he may be the worst left back that we have ever fielded (and yes, I do remember Julian Dicks); pace, power, invention, awareness, game intelligence, he has absolutely none of these. The opposition knows this and target him accordingly, he is (and will always remain) a liability.
Back to fourth place from sixth after being first only three weeks ago and only five points behind the leaders, 52 goals in 21 games (our best haul since 87/88 and that was a fairly decent team) , a points total at this stage that has previously see us finish comfortably in the top four and I'm complaining about the defence?
Surely we can't go through the entire season trusting on our frontmen out scoring the opposition as they did today. Can we?
Follow Ian on Twitter, @fish2310