Liverpool came away with three points in a roller coaster of a Premier League game at Stoke, finally ending their Britannia Stadium hoodoo in the process.
The Reds' attacking talents continue to impress, while their defensive problems likewise persist at the other end.
Luis Suarez scored another two, taking his tally to 22 for the season, Steven Gerrard marked his Premier League return with a goal from the penalty spot and Daniel Sturridge scored as a substitute on his return from injury.
Suarez, Sturridge and youngster Raheem Sterling provided plenty of problems for Stoke's defence, constantly putting them under pressure and threatening.
Much was made of the Suarez and Sturridge partnership earlier in the season, many commenting that the duo can fire Liverpool into the top four—that certainly continues to look possible, but the problems in defence and midfield must be of concern for Brendan Rodgers.
Ending the Hoodoo
This was Liverpool's first Premier League victory at Stoke and they're only the second side to come away from the Britannia Stadium with three points this season. Getting the victory by any means possible was certainly required, and this was a huge test of character for Rodgers' side.
Trips to Stoke are never easy, and given the way in which the home side clawed back from 2-0 down, a year ago Liverpool would have been unlikely to come away with a point, let alone all three.
The trio of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling would give any defence nightmares, and they certainly did Stoke's back four.
Sterling was excellent throughout, a constant menace down Liverpool's right side, winning the—albeit somewhat soft—penalty and creating numerous chances on the break.
Sterling has been absolutely fantastic here. Incredible that he's only just turned 19.— James (@James_Herd) January 12, 2014
Suarez, of course, was in his typically lively mood, scoring two well-taken goals and showing his less-selfish side as he attempted to assist Sturridge rather than take the opportunity for his third hat trick of the season.
Sturridge, though, still had his goal on his comeback appearance, finishing expertly after a superb save by Jack Butland from his initial shot—laid on by Suarez. The duo's partnership from earlier in the season immediately back in gear.
At the Back
Meanwhile, at the other end, Liverpool looked very suspect once again. This is becoming a trend in away games and at times resembled the performance at the KC Stadium earlier last month.
2 - Liverpool have conceded at least two goals in seven of their last eight Premier League away games. Loose.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2014
Injuries to Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho meant it was the same centre-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure as it was in that shambolic display at Hull. The midfield trio was also the same, although Gerrard was deployed as the holding midfielder, with Lucas and Jordan Henderson farther forward.
There were, far too often, gaping holes in Liverpool's midfield, and their full-backs of Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho were left extremely lacking.
Cissokho constantly gave away needless fouls out wide and was time and again beaten by Charlie Adam. Johnson's form continues to be a concern, lacking any energy, often poor with his final ball and defensively less than solid.
Rodgers continues to be linked with attacking players in this transfer window, but full-backs and a holding midfielder must surely be a priority if the correct players become available.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Overall, this was certainly a case of the good, the bad and the ugly for Liverpool. Some (very) good attacking play, some (very) bad defensive play, but overall a (very grateful) ugly victory.
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