Stoke City 0
Liverpool 1 Ibe 37
Liverpool’s Jordan Ibe scored a clinical first-half goal to give his side a 1-0 aggregate lead to take back to Anfield for their Carling Cup semi-final second leg.
Ibe, who replaced Philip Coutinho after just 17 minutes, gave Liverpool the lead following an attack which ended with Joe Allen’s scuffed shot falling to the 21 year old, who buried his finish past Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.
A scrappy first half was largely controlled by Liverpool and Ibe’s goal was well-deserved. Although Stoke were much-improved following the break, they were unable to take their chances and will feel that they should have come away with at least a draw.
Despite the win, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will be counting the cost, with Philip Coutinho, Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure all appearing to suffer hamstring injuries.
Substitute John Walters had a golden opportunity to equalise in stoppage time, but after being put clean through by Peter Crouch, he dragged his shot wide of Simon Mignolet’s left post.
Stoke piled on the pressure in the final few minutes, with Crouch replacing Xherdan Shaqiri with five minutes remaining as the home side desperately searched for an equaliser.
Crouch, who has seen his appearances limited due to the form of Arnautovic and Shaqiri, made a positive impact for Stoke in the final minutes as Liverpool’s centre-halves struggled to deal with the striker’s aerial presence.
Toure made a vital block with ten minutes remaining, preventing Shaqiri from crossing from the byline after Stoke broke down the right flank at speed.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes was visibly frustrated for much of the game, in the first half with his team’s lacklustre performance and in the second with the visitors’ gamesmanship. Mignolet was booked for time-wasting with 20 minutes remaining.
Stoke were able to call on Geoff Cameron after the midfielder’s red card against West Bromwich Albion was rescinded by the FA, whilst Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp dropped Christian Benteke and recalled Adam Lallana.
It was the visitors who made the far brighter start to the game. Adam Lallana forced a smart save from Jack Butland with long-range drive after seven minutes and Roberto Firminho came close with a smart effort from 25 yards which zipped wide of Jack Butland’s left-hand post.
Glen Johnson was central to virtually all of Stoke’s brightest moments and the former Liverpool man could have done better with a shot following a surprise short corner. In-form striker Marko Arnautovic also could have scored in the first half, but the Austrian’s header from Johnson’s deep cross was put wide.
Liverpool’s options at centre-half are now seriouly limited with Lovren, Toure and Martin Skrtel all out injured.
Stoke City: Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Cameron (Walters 45), Whelan, Shaqiri (Crouch 83), Afellay, Arnautovic, Krkic (Joselu 70).
Subs not used: Wilson, van Ginkel, Adam, Haugaard.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Lovren (Milner 33), Moreno, Can, Lucas, Allen (Benteke 78), Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho (Ibe 17)
Subs not used: Brannagan, Bogdan, Smith, Randall.