Stoke City: Match report v Liverpool
STOKE City continue to make their own recent history at Anfield.
The record books now show 34 visits since their last win at Liverpool in 1959 – and 50 failed attempts to win in the top flight in the red corner of Merseyside.
But Stoke's modern-day vintage now boast three 0-0 draws in five Premier League visits as the tide of such a daunting history slowly begins to turn their way.
Their latest Anfield stalemate was again the product of defending best described as disciplined rather than desperate.
Just as Luis Suarez's activities could be frequently best described as desperate rather than disciplined.
Stoke picked up all six bookings yesterday and they could complain about few, but the most deserving yellow card was never waved after one Suarez dive extravagant even by his high standards.
He posed plenty of more legitimate problems too, as did many of his colleagues, but too rarely could second-half pressure be translated into genuine pops at Asmir Begovic's impressively defended goal.
It was all too much for a home crowd more intent on berating every Stoke challenge, it seemed, than acknowledging a frustrating extension of Liverpool's tepid start under Brendan Rodgers.
If only Liverpool could have thrown a number nine shirt to their goalkeeper because he was doing his damndest at one point to create the day's only goal.
The visitors were twice indebted to Pepe Reina for setting up their best two chances to open the scoring in that opening period.
The Spaniard's risky pass to Nuri Sahin in only the fifth minute prompted a short return ball pounced upon by Charlie Adam.
But the former Liverpool midfielder fluffed the opportunity to score a timely goal in front of the Kop by striking his shot against Reina's legs.
Reina was also a guilty man in the 20th minute when a sloppy clearance fell into the lap of Steven Nzonzi for a quick ball to the side for the better-placed Michael Kightly.
Sadly, Kightly's worthy attempt to drift his shot over the retreating Reina was foiled by the goalkeeper's timely leap and tip over as he, instead of the ball, rolled towards the Liverpool net.
Reina was a more innocent bystander between those two chances, however, when Glenn Whelan's 14th-minute free-kick was flicked on by Ryan Shawcross for a cavalry charge of players to somehow miss out at the far stick.
Stoke's early confidence – and why not against a Liverpool side desperately trying to avoid a fourth successive home defeat for the first time since 1923 – was evident when Marc Wilson powered a long-ranger no more than a foot over.
Asmir Begovic, meanwhile, was pulling off the only real save of the half in the 27th minute after diving full-length to his left to parry aside Steven Gerrard's thunderbolt from nigh on 30 yards out.
Begovic was helpless two minutes later, however, when Suso's lob over an advancing Stoke defence left Daniel Agger free to narrowly miss out on converting in front of an unusually exposed City goal.
Liverpool's other forward activities invariably involved the admirable menace posed by Suarez as he soon engaged in a face-to-face battle – quite literally at times – with Robert Huth.
The big German had already made his presence felt on a couple of occasions by the time referee Lee Mason was entitled to book him for an evident collision with Suarez.
Mason, to his credit, was shaping up as the strong referee clearly required as several Stoke fouls were made to look far worse than reality by the likes of Suarez and Raheem Sterling going theatrically to ground.
Mason summoned Shawcross to his side in the 39th minute by way of a general warning to the Stoke players, but the visitors themselves were more concerned about the effect the Liverpool players and their increasingly volatile fans might have on the Lancashire official in the second half.
Liverpool were on rocket fuel for a period after the break and so it was no surprise, therefore, to see Begovic diving low to smartly gather Glen Johnson's dipper before the England full-back then controlled and lofted over on the run from Gerrard's precision passing.
Stoke appeared to have weathered that early storm, but only because Suarez fired a yard wide on the run after accomplishing the hard bit by taking out three opponents en route to shooting.
A robustly well-timed challenge by Dean Whitehead on Suarez – which inevitably left the Uruguayan rolling around and clutching his ankle – launched a rare and incisive Stoke attack that was to peter out horribly when Nzonzi skewed a mile off target to shrieks of derision from the home support.
Joe Cole's first appearance of the season from the Liverpool bench was a clear indication of the home side's mounting frustration with just over 20 to go.
Blood was beginning to be smelt, it seemed, as Agger ventured deep into enemy territory for a cross-shot that left Sterling side-footing against the base of a post.
Bookings for Shawcross and Adam was a measure of the pressure being mounted once again on Stoke's obstinate rearguard in front of a baying Anfield.
Suarez then tarnished a dainty little foray into Stoke's penalty area by admirably evading a couple of challenges – but then diving so blatantly as to have the Kop shying away in embarrassment.
Such shameful antics couldn't detract from Liverpool's dominance approaching the final 10 minutes, however, and it was half-pleasing to see Suarez in more conventional action by drilling against the outside frame of the goal from a near-impossible angle.
Possession and territory remained nearly all Liverpool's – and you just knew there would be at least one chance at the death.
That came right on 90 when a mini-scramble just left of the Stoke goal ended with Martin Skrtel poking out a foot to send the ball across goal to graze the far post.
The Kop shook its head collectively as Liverpool made it just six wins in their last 25 at HQ.