Stoke Focus – Pulis delights in superb Anfield performance

Stoke may have rode their luck at times against Liverpool at Anfield, but it says it all that manager Tony Pulis was a tad disappointed not to have come away from Merseyside with all three points.

The Potters, just as they had done in the fixture last season, successfully stifled the Reds’ attack, buoyant after scoring five at Norwich last week. However, rather differently from last year’s Stoke display, the Potters’ forward play carried real menace at times, and, but for some poor finishing and a couple of outstanding stops from Pepe Reina, Pulis’ team could have been heading back to Staffordshire with three points.

The draw caps off a superb seven days or so for the football club that began with their first win of the season in a comfortable victory against Swansea. Skipper Ryan Shawcross was then called up to the England squad and the week ended with a thoroughly deserved point at Anfield to leave Stoke steadily in 12th position.

However, had Charlie Adam taken the wonderful chance afforded to him by his former club’s backline, then Stoke could well have had a famous victory to take into the international break. Elsewhere, the defence was as dogged as ever and Pulis deserves particular credit for unearthing utility player Geoff Cameron. The American is unlikely to ever win any individual awards for creative skill or talent but in terms of sheer commitment, dedication to the cause and endeavour, Cameron embodies everything that is good about Stoke City under Pulis.

In midfield, the decision to place Glenn Whelan out on the right hand side while Matt Etherington continues his recovery from injury has proven to be an inspired one. The Irishman’s ability to keep possession has given the Potters a sense of midfield control they can often lack when playing two vertical wingers in Etherington and the ever-improving Michael Kightly, who saw an exquisite long-range lob turned over the bar by Reina.

Up front, the presence of Peter Crouch, particularly in the form that he is in at the moment, means that Stoke always retain a threat although he was marshalled quite well by the Liverpool defence. Michael Owen missed out on a return to his former club due to an injury picked up in training, a blow that Pulis may perhaps be rueing slightly as a player with the finishing ability of Owen would likely have tucked away some of the later chances the Potters had.

However, all in all, after a slightly shaky start to the season that at one point looked in danger of darkening, Pulis deserves a huge pat on the back for the way he has ensured that the entire club will go into the second international break of the season in high spirits.

The Potters next encounter sees them travel to Manchester United and judging by the form they showed at Anfield and United’s defensive problems of late, the away side certainly cannot be completely discounted.

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