A second one nil win of the season, and a fourth match unbeaten see’s Tony Pulis’ men rise to 4th in the Premier League table, one place above their opponents yesterday, Liverpool. It was another dogged performance from Stoke, who saw two of their three big money signings make their debuts in Crouch and Palacios. But it was Walters who become the hero of the day, winning and scoring a penalty midway through the first half, and Begovic kept up the good work with a string of impressive saves to see the game out. Unfortunately for Stoke, the rest of the stats look less impressive, with the headline being have the lowest possession rate of any team in a Premier League match – 27.3%.
Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Attendance – 27,592
Referee – Mark Clattenburg
Stoke City– Begovic; Huth, Shawcross, Upson, Wilson; Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Etherington; Walters (Goal), Crouch. Subs – Wilkinson for Huth, Jones for Etherington, Palacios for Delap.
Liverpool – Reina; Enrique, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel; Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Downing; Suarez (Yellow), Kuyt. Subs – Carroll for Kuyt, Johnson for Skrtel, Bellamy for Henderson.
That possession statistic is quite simply astonishing. That means Liverpool spent nearly ¾’s of the match on the ball while not scoring a goal. Even more staggering is the fact that Stoke only managed one shot on goal to Liverpool’s 7, while the reds managed a total of 425 successful passes to Stoke’s 124 – with contrasting pass completion rates of 64% to the home side and 78% to Dalglish’s men. Also telling on the attacking front was the difference between goal kicks – Reina only taking 3, while Begovic placed the ball down on 13 different occasions.
In defence, where Stoke are usually so strong, they struggled. Liverpool won more possession duels – 53 to 42; and won the same amount of aerial duels – 9 to 9. Both teams won 13 fouls apiece, while Stoke were caught offside 5 times to Liverpool’s 1. Stoke did win more tackles than Liverpool (18-15), made more than double the number of interceptions than their opponents (16-7) and completed 40 clearances to Liverpool’s 10. Both lost possession on multiple occasions, with Stoke losing 12 times to Liverpool’s 9.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Stoke’s record with throw ins is absolutely horrendous. They managed less than 50% accurate throw ins this time around – 8 out 17, compared to Liverpool with 40 out of 43 being successful. This will be the last time I mention Stoke’s reputation as a long ball team, because Liverpool attempted 16 more than Stoke (64-48) during the game, and were slightly more successful, with 54.6% of theirs finding their target, to Stokes 49.9%. Liverpool also managed 339 more touches throughout the game than Stoke (790-451), a stat which sums up their day – dominant, but not good enough.
So there we go, I’m eating my words as Stoke beat a strong Liverpool side. Stoke are the one side who prove time and time again that the rest of the stats are meaningless if you can manage a goal, and ultimately, win. But Stoke fans, surely you’d like to see your team doing a bit better? I’ve seen Peterhead of Scottish Division 3 have higher possession rates against SPL sides than Stoke did here. What Pulis does may work, but in midfield Stoke look like a championship team, and I’ll never be convinced about Jones, Walters and Fuller, Jerome or Crouch up top at any team. Next week it’s Sunderland away, after a nightmare trip to Kiev to face Dynamo in the Europa League.