Liverpool notched their seventh home league draw of the season as they were held to a frustrating goalless stalemate by a determined Stoke City side at Anfield.
The Reds dominated proceedings throughout the 90 minutes but could not find the required breakthrough against a resolute Potters unit.
Forward Dirk Kuyt had the best chance for the hosts, as he nodded wide from close-range in the second half, but it was another anaemic attacking performance from the Reds, which further damages their Champions League hopes.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish made five changes to the side which beat Manchester City in the Reds’ Carling Cup semi-final first-leg. Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll dropped out in attack as Kuyt returned, whilst a move to a five-man defence saw Sebastian Coates and Jamie Carragher make rare starts with Daniel Agger absent from the matchday squad.
They were joined by Jose Enrique, who made a cameo appearance against City, as youngster Martin Kelly moved to the bench. Charlie Adam also made his way back into the starting eleven as Jay Spearing failed to recover sufficiently from a hamstring strain picked up in the clash at the Etihad.
The visitors lined up much as expected, making several changes from the FA Cup victory against Gillingham. Matthew Upson dropped out for full-back Marc Wilson to join the starting XI as Ryan Shotton missed out in midfield with Glenn Whelan returning. Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome departed the Potters’ attack as Matthew Etherington took his place on the wing and Peter Crouch partnered Jon Walters up top.
The visitors were the first to register a threat on goal as Enrique unwisely allowed Walters to win a header and was fortunate to see Etherington spoon the resulting chance wide from the edge of the box.
That bright start for the Potters seemed to wake their hosts up however and the sheer unpredictability of their formation allowed them to find space with increasing ease. This was best illustrated by Steven Gerrard’s burst into space on the left which was well found by Adam but, unfortunately for the hosts, the Scot’s follow up cross was a wasteful one and easily repelled.
Adam almost atoned just moments later as he ran unmarked through the Stoke midfield to collect an Enrique pass in the box but he saw his shot brilliantly blocked by a sliding Palacios.
What followed was a period of frustration familiar to matchgoers at Anfield as the Reds dominated the possession statistics but could find no way through. Both sides had started the game with lone frontmen and the game was worse for the fact that neither was receiving adequate support.
The hosts were the first to try and make up for this issue as defender Martin Skrtel charged forward only to see his slide-rule pass go past Adam and frustratingly beyond the far post.
They continued to push as Glen Johnson was the next stopper to find himself in the box only to be denied by a brilliantly timed Huth tackle.
The half continued in much the same vein from then on and left Kenny Dalglish with a familiar quandary at half-time; how to break down a disciplined side at Anfield.
No way through | Kuyt failed to convert Liverpool’s best opportunity of the day
Though the home side started the second half much better, they were encountering the same problems in a stubborn defence and an inability to beat the first man from crosses.
Enrique found himself with a rare opportunity to break the line but had no men to aim for in the box as Liverpool failed to get forward in support.
The lack of a man to hit inspired Dalglish to look to his bench just moments after the half began as the ineffective Downing was replaced by Carroll.
The giant striker came close to helping his side break the deadlock after being on the pitch for just minutes as he seemed to invite a poor challenge from Huth in the box but saw the referee wave away his claims.
A double penalty shout followed soon after as first Carroll and then Kuyt tumbled in the box within seconds of each other but referee Howard Webb waved both claims away, much to the chagrin of the Kop.
The Reds had another opportunity to take the lead though through their Dutch forward Kuyt in the moments following the appeals but, after a helpful deflection, the experienced attacker somehow failed to head home from six yards.
Dalglish’s men continued to push in the closing stages but it was to prove another of the days which have been all too familiar at Anfield this season for a side chasing a place at Europe’s top table.
Commentaries, Stats, Player Ratings and much more,
Visit Goal.com Live Scores!