Stoke City 0 Liverpool 0

Last updated : 10 January 2009 By Footymad Previewer
Premier League leaders Liverpool dropped two points, but it could have been all three as battling Stoke City moved out of the relegation zone on the back of a goalless draw.

Tony Pulis' men created most of the best chances and Rafa Benitez could have no complaints about the outcome after his side failed to impress.

Stoke fielded new signing Matthew Etherington after his £3million move from West Ham, but suffered a blow in the pre-match warm-up when former Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao felt a reaction to a calf strain.

Glenn Whelan took his place in the starting line-up and the Republic of Ireland international lofted an early free-kick over the top after Martin Skrtel fouled Dave Kitson 20 yards out.

Liverpool appeared to settle after that and a period of possession led to Dirk Kuyt heading wide from Albert Riera's pinpoint cross from the left.

But the league leaders survived an almighty scare in the 12th minute after a high ball from Amady Faye caused all sorts of problems.

Ryan Shawcross eventually smuggled a pass to Rory Delap and he smashed a six-yard shot against the crossbar when it looked easier to score.

Thomas Sorensen rescued Stoke with a decent save in the 22nd minute after some desperate defending presented Kuyt with another opportunity.

But a determined home side were more than holding their own and Shawcross's 31st minute header from Etherington's delivery was ruled out for offside.

Benitez had Fernando Torres warming up during the interval, but the Spanish superstar stayed on the bench with neither side making changes at half-time.

Liverpool forced a couple of corners as they upped the ante at the start of the second period before a poor mistake by Pepe Reina almost handed Stoke a 50th minute lead.

Reina kicked an attempted clearance straight to Kitson, who went around the keeper only to fire an angled shot into the side-netting.

Benitez finally brought on Torres on the hour in an attempt to pep up his ineffective attack.

And Liverpool did threaten in the 68th minute when Lucas decided to head across goal rather than straight at a gaping net.

But Stoke refused to be dominated as Kitson headed narrowly over from another Delap throw and Whelan bent a free-kick inches wide.

Gerrard did whip a late free-kick against the top of the crossbar and then almost won it in stoppage time.

He managed to clip a shot towards goal after chasing down a long pass and the ball bounced behind off Sorensen's right-hand post.