Stoke 0-1 Liverpool: This was the Reds' first away win since when?
When all else fails – and a lot did in this game – it's individual brilliance that can often turn a very mediocre performance into a positive one. Step forward Philippe Coutinho, who spared Liverpool from some uncomfortable post-match questions with a brilliant 87th-minute winner at the Britannia Stadium to break the deadlock in this dreary Staffordshire tussle.
The Brazilian did it more than once last season, and dragged his side to three points again with a brilliant late drive.
These two sides thrashed out seven goals when they met in the final game of last season, though Stoke got six of them and were 5-0 up at half-time to humiliate the Reds in Steven Gerrard's final game for the club. Liverpool probably would have been happy just to come away from this one unscathed, a point and clean sheet in the bag after creating next to nothing all game and registering only 3 shots on target all game. Stoke didn't fare any better, managing just 1. But then when you've got a player as good as Coutinho, sometimes none of that matters.
Mark Hughes handed debuts to ex-Liverpool man Glen Johnson, Chelsea loanee Marco van Ginkel and former Barça boy Ibrahim Affelay. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, named young Joe Gomez at left-back, Jordon Ibe wide right and £32.5 million Christian Benteke to lead the line.
Benteke, however, was largely forced to feed off scraps, and though his usual self in the air, wasn't able to impose himself close to Stoke's goal thanks to a lack of quality service throughout. Liverpool weren't afraid to play to the Belgian's strengths going direct, but the tactic didn't really work against a Stoke side who comfortably nullified the threat (note the many long, red arrows in the Reds' attacking segment).
Not one for the ages, then, but a vital win for an under-pressure Rodgers as he attempts to get his former title challengers back on track.
- Stoke have won just once on the opening weekend of a Premier League season – 2009/10 vs Burnley.
- Stoke’s run of 11 home games when they managed to score a goal has come to an end.
- Liverpool didn’t manage a single shot on or off target in the first half.
- Stoke have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 6 home games in the Premier League.
- 3 of Philippe Coutinho's 4 Premier League goals in 2015 have come from outside the box.
- That is Liverpool’s first win on the road since March; they lost 3 and drew 2 of their 5 away games in April and May.
- Having failed to win in their first 5 visits to the Britannia in the Premier League, Liverpool have now won 2 of their last 3 at the venue.