Ian too sharp for plucky Stoke

from "British Soccer Week"

Two goals by Ian Rush - the second his 100th cup goal - saw Liverpool scrape through to the Coca-Cola Cup fourth round by the odd goal against gallant first division battlers Stoke City.

But the huge travelling army of Potteries fans will take back happy memories of a night when they out-cheered and out-sang the Anfield faithful and saw Lou Macari's spirited side outplay their high-riding Premiership opponents for long spells.

Liverpool opened the scoring after just three minutes, Robbie Fowler sweeping the ball out to Steve McManaman on the right flank. He set off an intricate run into the box before picking out Ian Rush, who steered home a precise low shot.

But Stoke shook off the early setback to take the game to the home side, and it was no more than they deserved when Paul Peschisolido eventually equalised after 40 minutes, turning sweetly under little pressure from the Liverpool defence to fire home from a Martin Carruthers centre.

Rush's second followed fine work by Rob Jones, who ran onto John Barnes' 55th minute pass and calmly wrong-footed his defender before rolling the ball back for the Welshman to hammer home an unstoppable shot that was to prove decisive.

Peschisolido had almost scored for Stoke after just six minutes, latching onto a defensive blunder to advance unmarked and unleash a shot that keeper David James did well to turn wide.

Ten minutes later Liverpool defender Phil Babb played the ball carelessly straight to Peschisolido, and was lucky to escape with a yellow card for halting the Canadian international's run on the edge of the box.

Toddy Orlygsson rolled the resulting free kick short to skipper Nigel Gleghorn, whose thunderous 20 yard shot rebounded off the inside of the post.

Carl Beeston and Orlygsson then tested the Liverpool keeper, before the Merseysiders sprang suddenly back to life, McManaman again setting up Rush for a shot that just beat keeper Carl Muggleton's dive but hit the Stoke post.

Liverpool had one more first half trick up their sleeves, Fowler pulling the ball down 40 yards out before aiming a cheeky lob just wide with Muggleton off his line two minutes before the break.

But Stoke resumed after the break still brimming with confidence, and saw Orlygsson's fierce volley rebound off Neil Ruddock and a low Peschisolido shot bounce off James' outstretched boot before Rush's second goal took the wind momentarily out of their sails.

But James was soon back in action, tipping Ian Cranson's header over his bar and then getting down well to turn Orlygsson's stinging low drive wide.

With 15 minutes remaining Rush poked the ball through to Jones but his effort was cleared off the line by Vince Overson in a desperate goalmouth scramble, and a minute later James went down bravely to block at Peschisolido's feet as the striker tried to take the ball round him.

Stoke boss Lou Macari paid tribute to his side.

"I never thought I would come to Anfield with Stoke and be bitterly disappointed to lose 2-1, but I am," he said. "I feel sorry for the players and the supporters but to a man I cannot criticise any of them, they performed beyond expectations."

"At half time I thought we could win but I warned them to watch for Rush. He's dormant for a while and then all of a sudden he pops up and gets a goal."

"He's like John Aldridge - you cannot stop them scoring goals."

"Liverpool probably expected a hard game and to be fair it was probably harder than Roy Evans expected. But we would not fancy playing that type of team every week - I think we'll stick to the division we are in at the moment!"

"Our lads must be choked because a return match was the least they deserved. Everything has been great except the result."

Liverpool boss Evans said: "You've got to give Stoke credit. It's a long time since I've seen a team work as hard as that. If we had not matched it overall we would have been out."

Copyright - British Soccer Week 

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