Liverpool cut the gap against Chelsea and took second place at the Premier League table after an energetic 4-1 victory over Stoke City.
Jon Walters headed home to give Stoke an early lead at Anfield, highlighting the home team’s persisting vulnerability in defence.
Joe Allen, a former Liverpool player, almost doubled the visitors’ lead when Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren failed to clear. The Welshman weaved his way into the area and shot low towards the far corner, forcing opposition keeper Simon Mignolet to produce a vital save with his foot.
However, Liverpool managed to respond positively, taking control of the game as Adam Lallana equalized by sweeping home from an acute angle after Glen Johnson failed to clear the danger inside his six-yard box. Robert Firmino then managed to somehow turn unchallenged in the box, and with a low shot bouncing in off the far and then near post gave Liverpool the lead one minute before half-time.
Jurgen Klopp’s men had the win in the bag, which moves them one point ahead of third-placed Manchester City – whom they play on New Year’s Eve – when Giannelli Imbula directed Divock Origi’s cross into his own net.
Striker Daniel Sturridge then completed the scoreline by picking up Ryan Shawcross’s careless back pass, rounding keeper Lee Grant and rolling the ball in to score his first league goal of the season.
The strong scoreline cuts the gap for Liverpool against Chelsea down to six, setting a perfect showdown as they host the Blues on New Year’s Eve, as Pep Guardiola’s men came off a convincing 3-0 victory against bottom team Hull City themselves.
Meanwhile, having recovered from a terrible start to the season, Stoke now find themselves in another poor run with four winless games, although there is a seven-point cushion between them and the relegation zone.