18 March 2012
Referee : Kevin Friend
Attendance : 43962
Liverpool advanced to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after beating Stoke 2-1 at Anfield thanks to strikes from Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing as they kept alive their pursuit of a cup double. The Uruguayan gave the Reds the lead with a great right-footed strike in the 22nd minute following a good attacking move by the home-side. However they were pegged back minutes later by the former player Peter Crouch, who headed home from close range in controversial circumstances.
Downing, who has struggled on Merseyside since his £20 million move from Aston Villa in the summer, got on the score-sheet when he fired a powerful shot past Sorensen to send his team into the semi-finals of the competition. Liverpool made one change from the team that beat Everton in midweek, with Maxi Rodriguez coming into the starting line-up in place of Jordan Henderson, while Andy Carroll and Suarez continued their partnership up front. Tony Pulis made four changes to his Stoke side which lost at Chelsea last weekend. Former Liverpool striker Crouch returned along with Thomas Sorensen, Glenn Whelan and Matt Etherington, replacing Asmir Begovic, Salif Diao, Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones. The Reds started the game well and had a good opportunity to take the lead after just three minutes when an unmarked Maxi headed just wide of the post from a dangerous Steven Gerrard free-kick from the left-wing. After a quiet opening 20 minutes, Liverpool sprang to life and took the lead through Suarez, who picked the ball up in the Stoke half and played a lovely one-two with Maxi before unleashing a curling shot which flew into the bottom corner, giving Sorensen no chance.
The Potters responded immediately and were level within minutes through Crouch, who headed home Etherington’s corner from close range with a bullet header after he peeled off Carroll, who neglected his marking duties inside the area. There was controversy as the decision to award the corner in the first place was proved to be incorrect, the ball having originally deflected off Ryan Shawcross before going out of play.
Stoke had an excellent opportunity to take the lead when Dean Whitehead broke upfield and slid a wonderful through ball to Jonathan Walters, who beat Martin Skrtel for pace but couldn’t put his effort on target. Crouch’s goal knocked the Reds out of their good early rhythm. However, late in the half they rallied and came close to regaining their advantage, as Suarez’s chipped effort was well saved by Sorensen and a Gerrard free-kick went just over the bar.
Kenny Dalglish’s side came out in the second-half reinvigorated, and were within a few inches of taking the lead through Suarez as he headed Gerrard’s free-kick just wide of the post with Sorensen beaten. The Reds began to dominate possession and got their reward when Downing struck in the 58th minute, after he cut inside from the right and took advantage of a deflection which knocked the ball into his stride before lashing the ball ferociously into the net. Liverpool were beginning to up the ante and could have gone further ahead if not for a good save from Sorensen who dove well to his right to stop a Suarez effort from distance, as the ball looked to be creeping into the corner.
Stoke tried to get back into the tie as Pulis added more firepower upfront by bringing on Cameron Jerome, but the Potters failed to find that final bit of quality needed to get an equaliser as deliveries from Jermaine Pennant and Etherington were disappointing.
Dalglish’s side were comfortable in defence as the Potters threw everything at them towards the end of the game, including several long throws into the box, and they held onto to win to send them into the last four of the competition.
Kelly - Skrtel - Carragher - José Enrique
Maxi Rodriguez - Gerrard - Spearing - Downing
Suarez - Carroll
Walters - Crouch
Etherington - Whitehead - Whelan - Shotton
Wilson - Huth - Shawcross - Wilkinson