Liverpool chalked up an emphatic 4-1 win over Stoke City on Tuesday that left manager Juergen Klopp purring with delight after they fought back from an early deficit to keep their Premier League title challenge on track.
Goals from Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino put the home side ahead by halftime and they romped to victory with a Giannelli Imbula own goal and Daniel Sturridge strike after Stoke threatened an upset with a Jonathan Walters header.
The victory took Liverpool to 40 points from 18 games and back into second place, six points behind league leaders Chelsea, a point above Manchester City, who are in third spot, and three in front of fourth-placed Arsenal.
”It was a very difficult game,“ Klopp said. ”The result doesn’t show it but it was difficult because it was the third or fourth time we’ve played Stoke with (ex-Liverpool striker Peter) Crouch on the pitch and that is a sign of how they want to play.
”We scored a wonderful goal and then the second one. We regrouped again and told the players that the movement was not as good as it could be and we (then) controlled the game.
”It was pretty clear Stoke could not play the same (sort of) half again. It was intense for them, they pressed high and were aggressive. We did better with the ball and deserved this result.”
Asked about Liverpool’s chances of a first league title since 1990, Klopp added: “We watch football and know the results but this is not when the season will be decided. If Chelsea win all the games they will be champions and they will deserve it.”
The hosts cancelled out Walters’ 12th minute opener when Lallana equalised in the 34th with a neat finish after an error by ex-Liverpool defender Glen Johnson before Firmino fired them ahead with a crisp shot that went in after hitting both posts.
Having dominated possession throughout, Liverpool sealed the points after the break following more sloppy Stoke defending.
Imbula gave the ball away and then compounded his error for the third goal when he turned a sharp low cross by Divock Origi into his own net before Sturridge put the icing on the cake.
Having come on as a substitute, the England striker pounced on a dreadful back pass by Ryan Shawcross and coolly slotted the ball home after rounding goalkeeper Lee Grant.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris