Luis Suarez scored twice and set up another as Liverpool returned to the Premier League's top four with a thrilling 5-3 victory at Stoke City on Sunday.
Daniel Sturridge produced a fine performance in his return from injury, scoring once and assisting another in a 24-minute substitute's cameo. Steven Gerrard also scored from the penalty spot for Liverpool, who moved into fourth place on 42 points with the win.
Peter Crouch, Charlie Adam and Jonathan Walters scored once each, and Marko Arnautovic added two assists, for Stoke. The Potters remained 12th with 22 points.
The eight-goal cracker featured four goals in each half, multiple defensive errors and a two-goal, first-half comeback. Liverpool had never previously won at Stoke in the Premier League.
Liverpool took an early 2-0 lead through an own goal and Suarez's opportunistic finish before Crouch and Adam—both former Liverpool players—replied with goals late in the first half. The visitors then established another two-goal advantage in the second half before Stoke briefly pulled it back to 4-3. Sturridge sealed the points with a late goal.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to his starting XI from the Reds' previous league match. Kolo Toure came in for the injured Daniel Agger, while captain Steven Gerrard returned to the lineup in place of Iago Aspas.
For Stoke, goalkeeper Jack Butland made his first Premier League start, in place of Thomas Sorensen, while Marko Arnautovic replaced Oussama Assaidi.
Liverpool needed less than five minutes to take the lead, but the opener came with a slice of luck.
With an errant pass bouncing in Stoke's end, Aly Cissokho struck a drive into the box, where the ball deflected off Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross, past the stranded Butland and into the net for a 1-0 Liverpool lead.
Liverpool carved out another chance with a counter-attack down their right flank in the 20th minute. Raheem Sterling held up the ball before switching to Philippe Coutinho on the opposite side. The promising move ended with Coutinho shooting over the target from the edge of the box.
Stoke built momentum as the first half progressed, but instead of finding an equalizer, the hosts found themselves down 2-0 in the 32nd minute.
Martin Skrtel played a long clearance down the pitch from his own box, and Stoke's Marc Wilson attempted to head the ball back to Butland. The Stoke goalkeeper hesitated, as did Shawcross, allowing Suarez to sneak in and tuck a low shot into the net.
Stoke were far from finished, though, and in the 39th minute, Peter Crouch pulled one back for the hosts.
Afforded time and space on the left, Arnautovic crossed into the middle for Crouch, and the big striker directed a pinpoint header into the net at the near post while moving away from the goal.
Adam then equalised in the 45th minute, powering to the edge of Liverpool's box before blasting an unstoppable angled drive past Simon Mignolet.
The thrilling action continued soon after the break. In the 50th minute, Liverpool won a penalty when Sterling went to ground under light contact from Wilson in the Stoke box. Gerrard, playing his 650th match for Liverpool, converted confidently from the spot one minute later.
Liverpool made a change in the 66th minute, bringing on Sturridge in place of Philippe Coutinho. Sturridge had not seen action since last Nov. 23, due to an ankle injury.
Sturridge's introduction paid off quickly. In the 70th minute, Sturridge picked up the ball in his own half and dribbled through Stoke's half to the edge of the box before layoff off for Suarez on the left. Suarez needed only one touch to curl his shot into the net for a 4-2 Liverpool lead.
The goal was Suarez's 22nd in 16 league appearances this season. He is the league's top scorer by a margin of nine goals over Manchester City's Sergio Aguero.
Stoke kept pushing for goals, however, with Jonathan Walters forcing a save from Mignolet with an 83rd-minute header. Two minutes later, Walters went one better.
In the 85th minute, Arnautovic crossed from the left for Walters in the middle. Walters took one touch to steady himself and shot through Mignolet's legs to make it 4-3 and set up a potentially dramatic finish.
But Liverpool's combination of Suarez and Sturridge proved too much. In the 87th minute, Suarez crossed from the left for Sturridge, who forced a save from Butland with a first-touch volley at the far post. But Sturridge latched onto the rebound and finished low at the near post to make it 5-3.
There was still time for Stoke, though, and Crouch hit the post with a header in the 90th minute. At the other end, Butland saved Suarez's rasping shot at his near post as Suarez went in search of his hat-trick.
Finally, as Stoke continued attacking in the final minute of stoppage time, Mignolet saved alertly from Gerrard's goal-bound defensive header. In the end, Liverpool survived, but hardly without a fight.
|Liverpool Player Ratings vs. Stoke City|
Stoke play at Crystal Place in the league on Saturday.
Liverpool host Aston Villa in the league the same day.
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