April 28 (Reuters) - LIVERPOOL 0 STOKE CITY 0
The battle for the top four in the Premier League may go to the final day after Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Saturday by Stoke City whose point may not be enough in their own scrap against relegation.
With Liverpool still to visit Chelsea, who trail them by nine points with two games in hand, Juergen Klopp’s side may have to beat Brighton & Hove Albion on May 13 and rely on their superior goal difference to qualify for the Champions League, assuming they do not secure it by winning this year’s trophy.
On paper, Saturday’s game looked a mismatch, pitting the only team unbeaten at home in England’s top four divisions against the side with the worst away record.
But a Liverpool side with five changes from the starting XI that beat AS Roma 5-2 in the Champions League semi-final, first leg at Anfield lacked their usual intensity and even Mo Salah fluffed a chance almost identical to one he buried in midweek.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was later substituted with a dead leg, also scuffed a shot on the six-yard line while Danny Ings had a goal disallowed for s marginal offside.
Despite enjoying 72 percent possession, Liverpool only had two shots on target and it was the first time since Dec. 26 that 43-goal Salah failed to score after starting a home game.
A dramatic finish saw Liverpool denied a penalty when Erik Pieters handled, while Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross almost snatched what would have been their first league win at Anfield.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson described the incident when the ball hit Pieters’ hand as a “blatant penalty”.
“For me it was a poor decision by the referee and linesman. They have ultimately cost us the three points,” said Henderson, who added that he should be okay for next week’s game at Roma despite receiving a kick on his calf in the first half.
Liverpool felt particularly aggrieved over the penalty after James Milner had conceded a spot kick in similar circumstances at home to Roma but Stoke midfielder Joe Allen said the visitors would have felt hard done by if it had been given.
Klopp said Liverpool had no new injury concerns for the Roma game. “We will be ready for Wednesday,” he said.
With Stoke’s relegation rivals playing later on Saturday, they are three points below the safety zone with two games left.
Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ken Ferris