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EPL: Liverpool move into second after 4-1 win over Stoke

Free-scoring Liverpool make Champions League group stage

Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to six points and moved to second in the league on Tuesday after a convincing 4-1 win over Stoke City.

The victory helped the Reds to maintain their unbeaten home record.

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Jon Walters headed home at his near post, highlighting the home team’s vulnerability in defence, to give Stoke an early lead.

But Liverpool responded positively after a disjointed start, with Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino scoring before the break as the hosts took the lead.

Jurgen Klopp’s men made sure of the win when Giannelli Imbula directed Divock Origi’s cross into his own net.

Adding gloss to the scoreline was Daniel Sturridge, who scored his first league goal of the season — and Liverpool’s 100th under manager Klopp.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the win moves Liverpool one point ahead of third-placed Manchester City whom they play on New Year’s Eve.

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There was a period in the first half when Liverpool looked exposed.

Simon Mignolet, again preferred in goal to Loris Karius as Klopp stuck to the team which started the derby win against Everton, should have saved Walters’ close-range header.

It was a mistake which will once again open up the debate over who should be the manager’s first-choice goalkeeper.

But, in attack, the Reds were as quick, incisive and destructive as they have been throughout the season.

Liverpool have now scored 86 league goals in 2016 —- their most in a calendar year since 1985.

They ended the match having made a total of 20 shots, six of which were on target.

Once the impressive Lallana equalised, sweeping home from an acute angle after Glen Johnson failed to clear the danger inside his six-yard box, Liverpool were completely dominant.

And there was a sense of inevitability when Firmino, allowed to turn unchallenged in the box, scored — his low shot bouncing in off the far and then near post.

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As has been the case for the majority of this season, Sadio Mane and James Milner were key cogs, with the latter’s tireless runs down the left flank giving Stoke an extra worry.

Stoke, now winless in four league games, caused Liverpool’s defence a number of problems in the first half, with former players Peter Crouch and Joe Allen instrumental for the Potters.

Crouch, starting for the first time since August, held the ball up well.

The tigerish Allen played like a man eager to prove a point to the club that sold him to Stoke for £13m in the summer.

Indeed, the Welshman could have doubled the visiting team’s advantage but instead forced a fine save from Mignolet.

Stoke sought to contain their opponents by attacking them and it was a ploy which worked until Liverpool levelled.

Then, Mark Hughes’ men suddenly found themselves penned inside their own half as the hosts confidently sprayed the ball around.

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Defensive errors contributed to Stoke’s downfall, with the visitors losing possession too easily in their own half for Liverpool’s third.

Also, Ryan Shawcross’ clumsy pass back to goalkeeper Lee Grant allowed Sturridge a clear run through for a goal the striker described as a “gift”.

Having recovered from a terrible start to the season, Stoke now find themselves in another sticky run, though there is a seven-point cushion between them and the relegation zon