Capital One Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg
Stoke City 0 – 1 Liverpool Ibe (37)
Attendance – 27, 369
Jordan Ibe’s winner gave Liverpool a 1-0 advantage in the first leg but it came at a cost as Philippe Coutinho, Dejan Lovren, and Kolo Toure picked up hamstring injuries.
Liverpool are already down to bare bones as Divock Origi, Martin Skrtel, and Daniel Sturridge are nursing injuries; now throw Coutinho, Lovren, and Toure into mix and Klopp’s side a desperately short of players.
Despite the injuries by the end of the night, it was a much improved performance from Saturday. A front three of Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Adam Lallana all started brightly.
Firmino tested Jack Butland inside 30 seconds, then just six minutes later Lallana forced the England no.2 into another smart stop.
But it was in the 17th minute when the hamstring curse hit Liverpool again; first it was Coutinho, he felt something as he went to shoot; Ibe came on to replace him.
Even with Liverpool’s most influential player going off injured, the Red still looked potent going forward; Mark Hughes side just couldn’t get out of their half in the first twenty minutes, as Klopp’s side piled on the pressure.
Injury struck once again just after the half-hour mark; this time it was Lovren. After sliding in for an innoxiously looking challenge, he straight away pulled up and signalled to the bench.
Because of the injuries Klopp couldn’t field a reserve centre-back, so James Milner came on. And captain Lucas Leiva slotted into the heart of the defence in what was a makeshift back-four.
Stoke were gradually getting into the game, but just as they were looking to get their more offensive players into the game, Liverpool took the lead.
It was a neat move involving Milner, Lallana, and Joe Allen; and then the substitute Ibe finished the chance expertly.
Milner fed Lallana down the channel; and the former Southampton captain danced his way into Stoke’s box and then picked out the onrushing Allen.
It looked as though Allen was going for the shot, but his effort wildly miscued and fell kindly to Ibe who took one touch and lashed it into the bottom corner.
Stoke just couldn’t get going in the opening half, and at half-time Mark Hughes decided to changes thing and brought on Jon Walters for Geoff Cameron.
It did make a difference as Stoke were more direct; and were able to use the best of both worlds; Walters arrival gave the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan more space to try and exploit any space Liverpool were leaving.
But the only problem for the Potters was that they couldn’t engineer any clear-cut chances until virtually the last kick of the game.
The arrival of Peter Crouch against one of his former clubs helped Stoke; the ball was flicked on by Crouch, and Walters was through at the angle but his shot was poor and it flashed past Simon Mignolet’s post without troubling the Belgian.
Liverpool’s injury crisis has worsened, and with many games coming up it might make Klopp dip into the transfer market for replacements; but they take back a lead to Anfield ahead of the second leg at the end of January.
As for Hughes and Stoke, they never really turned up in the first-half and that could cost them; but at 1-0 Stoke are certainly capable of scoring at Anfield.
Stoke City: J. Butland, E. Pieters, P. Wollscheid, R. Shawcross (c), G. Johnson, G. Cameron (J. Walters, HT), G. Whelan, M. Arnautovic, I. Afellay, X. Shaqiri (P. Crouch, 82), Bojan (Joselu, 69)
Substitutes: M. Wilson, M. Van Ginkel, C. Adam, J. Haugaard
Liverpool: S. Mignolet, N. Clyne, K. Toure, D. Lovren (J. Milner, 33), A. Moreno, Lucas (c), J. Allen (C. Beneteke, 79), E. Can, P. Coutinho (J. Ibe, 17), A. Lallana, R. Firmino
Substitutes: C. Brannagan, A. Bodgan, B. Smith, C. Randall