Walters double downs Liverpool

Walters double downs Liverpool

Stoke 3 Liverpool 1

Republic of Ireland star Jon Walters proved to be the scourge of Liverpool for the second successive season at the Britannia Stadium as the Reds' woeful run in the Potteries continued tonight.

Walters scored either side of Kenwyne Jones' header after the visitors had taken the lead through a Steven Gerrard penalty awarded in the first minute.

The Merseyside-born 29-year-old was the match-winner on this ground in September 2011 with the only goal of the game from the spot.

And his two strikes took him level with Ricardo Fuller as the club's joint leading Premier League goalscorer with 18.

But this victory also owed plenty to Stoke's ability to battle and unsettle opponents and recover from going behind so early on in the game.

That ensured Liverpool left still looking for their first Premier League win at their bogey ground, with just two draws and three defeats in their five visits since Stoke were promoted.

Tony Pulis' side secured a third successive home league victory over Liverpool for the first time since 1956-57 and extended their unbeaten league run at the Britannia to 16 matches, a sequence stretching back to February.

Stoke fans appear to have a particular dislike of striker Luis Suarez and that animosity was amplified almost as soon as the match kicked off.

There were 32 seconds on the clock when Suarez broke into the right-hand side of the penalty area and was pulled back by Ryan Shawcross.

The Stoke captain's hands-on approach has earned him many critics in recent weeks and referee Howard Webb was definitely not a fan as he immediately pointed to the spot.

It was the first time in 32 matches Liverpool had been awarded a penalty and Gerrard was in no mood to squander the opportunity as he coolly stroked home for the third successive league game - a feat last achieved in December 2007.

Liverpool fans were finally able to fulfil the promise they have been singing about for weeks as they did indeed 'party when Suarez got a pen', accompanied by a plume of red smoke which engulfed the away end from a flare which had been let off.

However, the celebrations were short lived as the home side were not only level four minutes later but ahead with just over 12 minutes gone.

A customary long ball forward could only be flicked backwards by Daniel Agger and with Martin Skrtel losing his footing Walters capitalised to smash a shot past Jose Reina.

The aerial bombardment continued but there will be questions asked in the Liverpool defence about Stoke's second from a corner as Jones was able to jump virtually unchallenged to head in at the undefended near post.

It would have been worse for the Reds had Reina not thrown up a hand to tip over Matthew Etherington's shot.

The closest Liverpool came to equalising before the break was when Gerrard stabbed wide from Stewart Downing's cut-back on the left.

Half-time brought a change for the visitors with Raheem Sterling replacing Suso and the substitute almost had an immediate impact with Suarez bundling his cross wide at the near post.

But Liverpool's hopes of getting back on level terms quickly were extinguished with Walters' second of the night.

The defence again failed to deal with a long throw as Jones flicked on for his strike partner to control the ball on his chest and hammer home a dipping volley.

With the hard work done all Stoke had to do was keep it tight at the back, something they have become increasingly good at this season with a top-flight best nine clean sheets, and look to hit break on the counter-attack.

Liverpool failed to really trouble the defence of Asmir Begovic - the best being Gerrard's long-range curling shot which the goalkeeper palmed clear - as Suarez became an increasingly isolated and frustrated figure up front.

Stoke's win moved them up to eighth in the table, within five points of fourth-placed Tottenham while a sixth defeat of the season for Rodgers' side leaves them rooted in mid-table.

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