Stewart Downing seals Liverpool's FA Cup semi slot at Stoke's expense

Liverpool have their place in the FA Cup semi-finals after overcoming a dogged Stoke City. This will have felt like a significant moment for the victors. A club that has already taken the Carling Cup had the fillip of that 3-0 victory with Everton a few days before, when Steven Gerrard had chalked up all the goals. In practice, however, there were just intermittent signs of finesse in this tie even if each team had struck by the interval.

The opener from Liverpool had a refinement that was seldom on view in the contest. Luis Suárez worked a one-two with Maxi Rodríguez and sent a low, bending drive beyond the left-hand of Thomas Sorensen in the 23rd minute. It would have heartened the home support that the Uruguayan is now minded to stay in this country despite the eight-match ban that he served for racial abuse of Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Despite being a newcomer Suárez even spoke of hoping to sign a new contract although the current one already runs to 2016."I want to stay, despite everything that happened," he told a Uruguayan website. All the same, the concise move for his opener was in contrast with much of the action and the Anfield stage was not the scene of a wholly commanding performance.

The former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch levelled in the 26th minute by heading in from a Matthew Etherington corner while the goalkeeper Pepe Reina complained that his path had been blocked by Ryan Shotton. The hosts had much of the play without achieving real fluency until the move that re-established the lead.

With 57 minutes gone, Stewart Downing came off the right wing and cut across the edge of the penalty area to exchange passes with Gerrard and shoot low past the left hand of Sorensen. There were more flourishes to follow, with Suárez again testing Sorensen, yet this had been an untidy win in which Liverpool spent part of stoppage time defending Stoke corners. Liverpool play Everton or Sunderland in the semi-final. Tottenham Hotspur or Bolton Wanderers are at home to Chelsea.

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