Liverpool v Stoke: An early scare, the Return of The Crouch, and a predictable finish

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For a moment - it looked like it was going to go horribly wrong.

A skilful, incisive trio were running the opposition ragged, leaving defenders for dead and deservedly took a one-goal lead.

(Martin Rickett/PA)
(Martin Rickett/PA)

Who else could we be talking about but Jon Walters, Peter Crouch and Joe Allen?

The unlikely group certainly got the away fans going and believing they could turn Stoke's awful record at Anfield around.

The Potters' form at Anfield is the worst in the Premier League, having not won since 1959 and scored only two goals since 1983, but Walters set about changing that with his headed opener.

But after that glory moment and a further golden chance to make it 2-0 had passed, the game conformed to its proper script.

Liverpool stepped out of their rut, and quick goals before half-time from Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino ended any hope of a dream result for Stoke.

(Martin Rickett/PA)
(Martin Rickett/PA)

Two blunders in the second half ensured a comfortable victory for the home side.

Giannelli Imbula was forced into scoring an own goal while Ryan Shawcross gifted Daniel Sturridge a goal with a horrendous backpass after the striker had been on the pitch for less than a minute.

All in all, Stoke fans were left unimpressed.

The 4-1 scoreline will have buoyed Liverpool ahead of their huge clash with Manchester City later this week.

The Reds moved back into second ahead of City, who visit on Saturday, to maintain the six-point gap with leaders Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola's side will not relish their New Year's Eve trip to Anfield to face a team who have now scored 100 league goals during Jurgen Klopp's 48 matches, equalling the record set by Kenny Dalglish.

But - despite the loss - Crouch probably enjoyed his return to Anfield.

As, we imagine, did Allen.

Well almost.