Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points but may live to regret being held to their second 0-0 draw of the season by Stoke on Saturday as the title race hots up.
Reds captain Steven Gerrard struck the bar after 84 minutes with a free-kick but it was a rare moment of concern for Stoke, who ended a streak of four straight league and cup defeats. Stoke moved out of the bottom three with the hard-earned point.
The home side should have taken the lead in the 12th minute when a looping cross from Amdy Faye fell to Rory Delap, who began the attack with a long throw.
Delap, though, shot recklessly against the bar from just 6m and striker Richard Cresswell was unable to react when the rebound came his way.
Liverpool struggled to break down Stoke for much of the game but on 22 minutes Dirk Kuyt found space to shoot from 7m though keeper Thomas Sorensen saved at the near post. It was their only clear chance of the match.
Stoke had the ball in the Liverpool net on 31 minutes when new signing Matthew Etherington’s cross was headed in by Ryan Shawcross but it was ruled off-side.
Stoke’s spirited and direct style often tested the Reds’ defense.
Gerrard, their most influential player, failed to have much impact while employed just behind lone striker Kuyt and his dominant midfield play was missed while in a more attacking role.
Stoke again threatened on 51 minutes courtesy of a mistake from goalkeeper Pepe Reina, whose clearance was mis-hit low to Dave Kitson. The striker took the ball on and rounded Reina but could not score from an acute angle.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez stoked his simmering row with Sir Alex Ferguson after his side played out a goalless draw at Stoke.
The Reds passed up the chance to move six points clear of Chelsea ahead of Luis Felipe Scolari’s team’s trip to Manchester United and even though Benitez’s sustained attack on Ferguson on Friday is now being investigated by the English Football Association, the Spaniard stood by his claims.
He used his pre-match press conference to claim that Ferguson is never punished over his criticism of referees, was wrong to complain about fixtures and that his staff intimidate referees at Old Trafford.
But despite his team struggling against Stoke, Benitez was happy to re-iterate his views on Ferguson.
He said: “Maybe in 20 years nobody has said these things. Maybe a lot of people are thinking the same but they didn’t want to say it. I don’t regret saying it and I don’t think it had any effect on the players.”