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Misfiring Liverpool choke in Stoke stalemate

Liverpool's Andy Carroll protests to the fourth official during the Barclays Premier League match against Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday in Liverpool, England. (GETTY)


Liverpool slipped to a seventh home draw of the season as they were held to a goal-less stalemate by Stoke at Anfield.

Along with Manchester City, the Reds have the only unbeaten record in the Premier League but they have managed to win just four of their 11 league games in front of their own fans.

With Luis Suarez suspended and Andy Carroll left on the bench, Liverpool struggled to create any real forward momentum from the start, with Dirk Kuyt playing on his own up front.

Kuyt had not managed a league goal all season and the two players tasked with supporting him, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, had only contributed one more between them.

Tony Pulis' Stoke were stubborn as always and although they are still looking for a first victory at Anfield since 1959, they will take a great deal of satisfaction from their point.

Stoke were the first to threaten, with Matthew Etherington driving wide from a Jon Walters knock-down.

Kuyt's habit of dropping deep and wide meant the Reds found it hard to get bodies into the area and their best early opening saw Jose Enrique clip over the top for Charlie Adam, who was denied by a fine sliding challenge by Wilson Palacios.

From the Steven Gerrard corner that followed the ball glanced off an oblivious Adam at the far post but flew backwards.

Stoke continued to look dangerous on the break and after play broke down on the edge of their area, Etherington poured forward and hit a powerful drive from just over 20 yards that was held by Pepe Reina.

Liverpool almost prised an opening when Gerrard, who was making his first Premier League start at Anfield since October, fed Kuyt, whose clever pass almost ran for Glen Johnson into the area.

The hosts showed more signs of life when Downing turned Glenn Whelan on half-way and burst forwards before drilling a shot just past the top corner from around 20 yards.

Gerrard also tried his luck from around 30 yards, again failing to test Potters goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

Stoke had no problem dealing with a Gerrard free-kick that was searching for Martin Skrtel before Henderson could only force a routine save from Sorensen with another long-range effort.

Liverpool showed no changes after the break but looked more dangerous when Johnson gathered from a Ryan Shawcross mistake, only to have his low stab at goal blocked by Marc Wilson.

Johnson also went close when he cut in from the right and drove narrowly wide of the post with his left foot.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish responded to his team's lack of bite by bringing on Carroll.

But Dalglish was furious that the officials did not allow Carroll onto the pitch in time to defend an Etherington free kick that was almost turned in by Robert Huth.

When Carroll came on, his first action was to go for a Gerrard corner, with the home fans claiming that he should have been given a penalty for Huth's challenge.

As Liverpool finally built up some momentum, a fine lobbed cross to the far post saw Henderson thump a shot at goal only to see his effort blocked by Carroll.

The hosts had two more serious penalty appeals for challenges on Carroll in the area.

But when they finally created a decent chance, from an Enrique cross that glanced off Jonathan Woodgate, Kuyt headed wide of goal.

The Dutchman also failed to guide another header on target at the far post as the hosts pressed and pressed.

Skrtel also saw a downward header bounce up just over the bar from Craig Bellamy's corner.