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Rediff.com  » Sports » Huth earns Stoke City draw with Liverpool

Huth earns Stoke City draw with Liverpool

January 17, 2010 11:03 IST

The malaise at Liverpool was laid bare on Saturday when they conceded a last-minute equaliser at Stoke City to complete a miserable week for the Anfield club.

After losing at home to Championship (second division) Reading in the FA Cup on Wednesday, Robert Huth's tap-in to earn Stoke a 1-1 draw prevented a welcome shot in the arm for a proud Liverpool in poor health on and off the pitch.

Clinging on to the 58th-minute lead granted by Greek defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos would have at least vindicated under-pressure manager Rafa Benitez's conservative team selection but two more dropped points will keep the spotlight burning on the Spaniard who continues to fight his corner.

"I'm really pleased with the performance against a difficult team. In a tough game we did almost everything to win," Benitez told the club's website (www.liverpoolfc.tv).

"If you asked me before the game in normal circumstances if I'd take a point, I'd say it's not bad, but after winning for 89 minutes I felt we could have got the three points," added Benitez who apologised to the fans this week after the defeat by Reading.

"In football sometimes things go against you. We have these problems but the only way to change things is to keep going, keep working hard."

As is becoming normal for Benitez this season, he again directed his anger at the match officials, arguing Liverpool should have had a penalty when midfielder Lucas was sent tumbling in the box only to be shown a yellow card for diving.

The manager told Sky Sports: "27,000 people in the stadium could see it was a penalty."

Settling for draws at Stoke is not what Liverpool's fans have been accustomed to over the years.

Stoke had managed just 18 league goals this season prior to the visit of Liverpool, they lost their long-throw expert Rory Delap early on and took 75 minutes to get an effort on target.

They were clearly there for the taking but Benitez's side, featuring six defenders, lacked the creativity to cash in.

With captain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Liverpool's only world class attacking players, absent with injuries, Benitez left 20 million pounds ($32.68 million) Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani on the bench alongside Maxi Rodriguez, who was signed in midweek from Atletico Madrid.

SAFETY FIRST

Enigmatic Dutch winger Ryan Babel, who vented his frustration with life on Merseyside on his Twitter site on Friday, was not even in the squad as Benitez opted for a safety-first side seemingly designed not to lose rather than go all out for three points.

Already out of the League Cup, Champions League and FA Cup, Liverpool have also dropped 29 Premier League points this season compared to the 28 they surrendered in the whole of last season.

With Torres having undergone knee surgery and precious little money for new signings there appears no immediate sign of improvement and although Benitez still believes a top-four finish is possible the sides immediately above them, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, look far better bets.

Fortune also appears to have deserted them. It looked like a penalty when Lucas went down under challenge from Danny Higginbotham while Dirk Kuyt watched his stoppage time header hit the inside of the post.

"It feels like a defeat," said Dutchman Kuyt. "To concede in the last minute was unbelievable. We're not playing the greatest football at the minute and confidence isn't very high as you can guess."

Source:
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