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Liverpool have been held to a frustrating goalless draw by Barclays Premier League new boys Stoke City.

The Reds failed to convert a raft of chances in one of the most one-sided affairs Anfield has witnessed in many a year.

It might have been three points gained, rather than two dropped, had the linesman not ruled out a second-minute strike from Steven Gerrard for reasons which remain unknown.

Rafael Benitez had warned his players to treat Stoke with the same respect as they had United a week ago. While the result might suggest his words went unheeded, it is difficult to see what more the home side could have done to gain a breakthrough.

It was almost a dream start for Liverpool on two minutes when Gerrard found the net from an angled free-kick. Anfield went delirious for what they thought was the skipper's 100th club goal and it took some time for the faithful to realise the goal had been inexplicably chalked off.

They'll doubtless tune into Match of the Day for answers, but it nearly became irrelevant five minutes later when a low Dirk Kuyt cross was met by the instep of Robbie Keane. The net gaped but, as is often the way when strikers are searching for a goal, Keane's usual composure escaped him and the ball rolled harmlessly into Thomas Sorensen's palms.

Buoyed by their early let-offs, Stoke's backline stiffened and the hosts were restricted to a series of long-range efforts for the remainder of the half. The best, a Xabi Alonso curler which followed a well-worked corner, brought a fine save from Sorensen.

Liverpool were working some intricate moves on the edge of the opposition box in what was turning into a straight game of attack versus defence, but the newly-promoted side stood firm.

At the other end, Carra and co had just one of Rory Delap's trademark long throws to worry about in the first half, and even then Pepe Reina gathered comfortably.

The second half began pretty much as the first started and ended: with those in Red firmly on the front foot. It nearly paid dividends on 52 minutes when Alvaro Arbeloa played a neat one-two with Kuyt before skipping past a man and crossing towards Keane, who once again made it too easy for Sorensen.

Seconds later Fernando Torres rose above the lanky Stoke defence to head a super Arbeloa in-swinger narrowly wide.

If the Spanish striker's first real chance of the day was missable, his second, by his own very high standards, was probably a banker. The Kop end rarely sees its idol squander from eight yards but this time, with perhaps too much room for maneuver, Torres blasted over.

Next Kuyt fired towards the bottom corner only to be denied by the in-form Sorensen. It was turning into one of those days.

So desperate were Liverpool for an opener that even Jamie Carragher tried his luck from 25 yards, coming closer than one might expect with a well-executed curler.

It wasn't totally one sided. Stoke, for their part, had another long throw on 81 minutes.


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