Philippe Coutinho’s exceptional late strike gave Liverpool a 1-0 victory over Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
The first half was almost free of attacking incident, with new signing Christian Benteke a consistent target for Coutinho, without the two managing to link up constructively.
For Stoke, the best chance came when a volley was deflected into his path 12 yards out, but after struggling to get the ball from under his feet, he lifted a shot over the bar.
The most exciting moment of the first period was a shoving match between Charlie Adam and James Milner, which ended in a booking for them both.
In the second half, Liverpool and Stoke continued to struggle to create any meaningful chances, with long balls, poor crosses, and dithering approach play. With five minutes to go, Coutinho struck a fantastic shot from 25 yards that flew into the top corner to give an uninspired Liverpool a moment of magic.
36′ – JOHNSON MISS – Johnson runs into the box to get to a blocked ball, and with the ball spinning in front of him, he dithers, shifts the ball left and shoots just over the bar.
39′ – CONTRETEMPS – A yellow card for Milner and Adam. Milner went in hard and late on Adam, and Adam shoved him in retaliation. Quite calm, really.
63′- LOVREN SHOT – Lovren gets some room to shoot from a tight angle on the left, but it’s straight at Butland.
64′ MIGNOLET SAVE – Adam clips in an inswinging cross from a free kick on the right wing, and Diouf is an inch away, misses it, and Mignolet turns it behind.
86′ – GOAL! Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool. Coutinho scores – he lines up a shot from about 25 yards, having left his marker for dead, and fizzes a shot towards the top corner, with Butland having no chance.
Neither side managed a shot on target in the first half hour of the match.
Liverpool have won three of their last nine games at Stoke.
Rodgers is gradually introducing his new signings. After last season, when he had to assimilate a horde of new names, he began the first match of the season with four debutants, and four other new signings on the bench. He appears to be taking his time in finding a new formation that uses most of his new players, so as not to repeat one of the mistakes of last season. Coutinho’s goal will give him breathing space to continue this.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool): He wasn’t especially good, but neither was anyone else. He wasn’t especially bad, but neither was anyone else. But he was the only player to pull off an outstanding individual moment to settle the match with his goal.
Stoke City: Butland 6, Johnson 6, Cameron 6, Muniesa 6, Pieters 6, Whelan 6, Adam 5, Walters 6, Van Ginkel 6, Afellay 6, Diouf 6. Subs: Odemwingie 6, Sidwell 6,Wollscheid 6.
Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Clyne 6, Skrtel 5, Lovren 6, Gomez 6, Henderson 6, Milner 6, Lallana 5, Ibe 6, Coutinho 7, Benteke 6. Subs: Bogdan, Toure, Firmino 6, Can 6.