- Liverpool featured five debutants
- First 45 minutes progressed with little action
- Philippe Coutinho golazo wins it with four minutes left
Liverpool went into the Britannia charged for revenge after last season ended with an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at that very ground. Just as it looked they’d come out confused, befuddled, and devoid of ideas, Philippe Coutinho unleashed a stunner to give the Reds all three points.
Stoke City held well along the back and had the best pair of chances as the two sides appeared to be snoozing their way to a 0-0 draw when Coutinho’s beauty struck the back of the net with four minutes to go.
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The first chance fell to Charlie Adam in the Liverpool box inside 8 minutes, but he whiffed on the shot as the ball fell to him in the middle of the box. From there, the game snoozed through much of the first half-hour, with either team shifting tactics to counter the other. On 35 minutes, Stoke had another opportunity but Ibrahim Afellay’s first effort was blocked and Glen Johnson’s follow-up shot looped over the bar.
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Halftime came without much else to show for the first 45 minutes. Erik Pieters had to come off after the break due to injury, replaced by Philipp Wollscheid. Liverpool eventually made a substitution as well, although it wasn’t the one many expected. With the game continuing to drag, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers brought on defensive midfielder Emre Can instead of new signing Roberto Firmino.
Past the half-hour mark, Liverpool found its first shot on target from a set-piece, a free-kick flung over the box at the feet of Martin Skrtel who found his central defensive partner Dejan Lovren, but his low shot from a tight angle was held easily by Jack Butland. Eventually, Rodgers would eventually bring on Firmino, but to little effect.
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Stoke had a chance as Charlie Adam found Mame Diouf with a free-kick but the latter whiffed on the far post tap-in. Liverpool picked things up past 65 minutes as a Christian Benteke shot was blocked and the pace seemed to brighten slightly, and the ensuing corner saw Butland make a diving save to keep out a solid Benteke header.
Diouf again found himself the target of a ball forward into the box, but his header just glanced wide of the post with seven minutes remaining. The game looked to be snoozing to a finish, and Rodgers was about to substitute off Coutinho when the Brazilian shook off the cobwebs, burst forward through the midfield and unleashed a sparkling ray of brilliance that lifted the visitors to delight.