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Reds secure Wembley return
Goals have been in short supply for winger Stewart Downing, but his second of the season secured another trip to Wembley in double-quick time after a 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final win over Stoke.
The England international has not had the start he would have wanted to his Liverpool career and did not score his first until the third-round victory over Oldham in January.
However, if he is saving his best for the knock-out competition, manager Kenny Dalglish will be hoping there is more to come from the 27-year-old with a second trophy of the campaign now tantalisingly within their grasp.
Tony Pulis' side travelled to Anfield knowing the Potters had not won there for 53 years and although they did at least put an end to one bad run by scoring their first goal in seven FA Cup encounters against the Merseysiders courtesy of Peter Crouch, they never really threatened an upset after equalising Luis Suarez's opener.
The first half was all about Liverpool trying to establish some control and Stoke working their hardest to deny them, and for 20-odd minutes the pair almost cancelled each other out.
Stoke's work-rate caused problems to Liverpool's patient build-up play as the hosts were given no time to settle on the ball, but when the Reds ran at the Potters' defence it produced better results.
That was proved in the 23rd minute when Suarez picked up the ball in a deep position, advanced, bounced a pass off Maxi Rodriguez and whipped a low right-footed shot past Thomas Sorensen's left-hand just inside the post.
But within three minutes Stoke were level when Matthew Etherington's corner picked out former Reds striker Crouch to head home from five yards out, with Jose Reina subsequently booked for claiming, correctly, it should not have been a corner in the first place and also that he was impeded by Shotton.
Downing played a decisive role in the 57th minute when he advanced to the edge of the area before drilling a fierce left-footed shot past Sorensen. The goal lifted Liverpool and Suarez's swerving low shot tested Sorensen down to his left again as the home side looked to force home their advantage.
Stoke began pushing harder for a second equaliser but they found Liverpool determined not to squander another lead. In five minutes of added time the Potters forced a couple of corners and Rory Delap long-throws, but this time there was no lapse of concentration at the back.