London – Brendan Rodgers hailed a “fantastic” performance after Liverpool’s SAS tore Stoke City to pieces and warned the Premier League that his club are serious title contenders.
Inspired by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the Reds beat Stoke 5-3, their first top-flight victory at the Britannia Stadium, to stay only five points behind leaders Manchester City.
Suarez scored a goal in each half – taking his personal tally for the season to 22 – with a Ryan Shawcross own goal, a penalty from Steven Gerrard and a late strike from Sturridge sealing victory. Rodgers believes such firepower can keep his side in the hunt going into the climax of the season.
The game was tinged with controversy. Stoke boss Mark Hughes was unhappy with referee Anthony Taylor’s decision to give a penalty against Marc Wilson for a foul on Raheem Sterling with the score locked at 2-2 just after half-time.
Victory was secured after Gerrard scored from the spot and Sturridge came off the bench to play a starring role.
Asked if winning the title was still possible, Rodgers said: “Absolutely. We came into this match with 18 games to go – nine at home and nine away. Seven of those away games are against teams in the bottom half. That doesn’t mean they are ‘gimmes’ but we’ve shown enough that we’re going to be challenging and that’s all we ever wanted.
“We never stated we were going to win the league – but we needed to be in the conversation.”
“The penalty decision was key,” said an unhappy Hughes. “It swung the game back towards them. It was soft. Whether that would have been given in front of our fans, I’m not sure, but in front of 3,000 Liverpool supporters the referee has bought it.’”
Rodgers admitted: “I’d call that a Spanish penalty, which means that if you get it you are happy. Mark would be aggrieved, I’d think.” – Daily Mail