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Salah draws rare blank in Anfield stalemate as relegation looms for Potters

Goal 44 of an incredible season proved elusive for Mohamed Salah but a 0-0 draw at Liverpool did Stoke City few favours.

Mohamed Salah failed to score against Stoke on a frustrating afternoon for Liverpool.
Mohamed Salah failed to score against Stoke on a frustrating afternoon for Liverpool.
Image: Clive Brunskill

LIVERPOOL PASSED TIME between Champions League semi-final assignments with a 0-0 draw against Stoke City that nudged their opponents closer to relegation from the Premier League.

The club paid their support to Sean Cox before kick-off, hanging a St Peter’s GAA jersey inside the Anfield dressing room for the Dunboyne father of three who was attacked before their Champions League semi-final with Roma.

Mohamed Salah spurned a glorious early chance to net his 44th goal of the season and Danny Ings saw a goal ruled out for offside before half-time.

Nevertheless, for all Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match insistence upon the importance of their weekend engagement, it was a fitful showing from Liverpool, who will look to press home a 5-2 advantage over Roma in the Italian capital on Wednesday.

Stoke boss Paul Lambert continued his proud record of having never lost at Anfield in six visits and the well-drilled away team never looked likely to endure the sort of ordeal on the road that has seen them concede seven at Manchester City and five apiece to Tottenham and Chelsea this season.

Nevertheless, anything over than victories over fellow strugglers Crystal Palace and Swansea is unlikely to save Stoke, who almost found an 88th-minute winner heavily against the run of play through captain Ryan Shawcross. At this stage, even that might not be enough.

Anfield waited for the net to bulge in the fifth minute, but the only sight more surprising than Erik Pieters darting out of his defensive line to give Salah the freedom of Stoke’s half was the PFA Players’ Player of the Year dinking a routine finish wide.

Joe Gomez, one of five alterations to the XI that thumped Roma, made a shaky start and in the 20th minute his aimless lunge on Moritz Bauer allowed the Austria international to cross for Mame Biram Diouf to head wide at the far post.

Gomez was playing at right-back as Trent Alexander-Arnold pushed into midfield to fill the void left by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s knee ligament injury and the latter youngster should have done better when he prodded Salah’s pass at Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.

There were chances at both ends as ex-Liverpool man Peter Crouch just failed to get on the end of Xherdan Shaqiri’s low centre, while Georginio Wijnaldum rippled the side-netting and Salah did likewise from a 34th-minute free-kick.

Ings thought he had given Liverpool the lead four minutes before half-time but strayed offside before rifling Wijnaldum’s return pass into the roof of the net.

Liverpool v Stoke City - Premier League Georginio Wijnaldum and Darren Fletcher in action on Saturday afternoon. Source: Clive Brunskill

A groin injury to centre-back Bruno Martins Indi came as a major blow to Stoke and Lambert’s decision to send on winger Ramadan Sobhi underlined the Potters being in a situation where a 12th draw of the campaign would be of little use.

Stoke’s Egypt international enjoyed a couple of forays, drawing a brave block from Gomez, but the visitors had faded as an attacking force.

Liverpool’s hoarding of possession was the main factor that made a home breakthrough more likely in a half that ambled past the midway point as Alberto Moreno drove wide from 25 yards.

There was late drama as Pieters fortuitously survived a penalty shout for handball before Shawcross, a Stoke mainstay since their promotion a decade ago, came agonisingly close to smuggling home the winning goal his club badly needed.

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