While Liverpool’s disjointed performance in yesterday’s narrow win over Stoke City won’t do much to vanquish the memories of last season’s thumping on the final day of the campaign, at this stage of the season and with a host of new faces in starting eleven, three points are exactly what we needed — and, at times, far more than it looked like we deserved.
“It’s always difficult coming to Stoke. Defensively we were strong and we always know we have the quality to win a game, explained Reds boss Brendan Rodgers in his post-match interview with a notable air of relief about him. “It was embarrassing [the 6-1 loss in May] but today you’ve seen the determination and the quality,” continued the Northern Irishman, taking up a familiar tone. “It was definitely one for [the fans]. They’ll be proud of the team tonight.”
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Although the hosts had the better of the few opportunities generated by either side, the introduction of Emre Can just past the hour mark looked to have swung the match in Liverpool’s favour with Jordan Henderson and James Milner now able to push on from midfield. Regardless, proceedings looked to be petering out to a scoreless draw until a moment of magic from Philippe Coutinho saw the 23-year old bamboozle the Potters defense before whipping in a curling, dipping shot from distance that was far too good for debutante ‘keeper Jack Butland.
“It was a great strike to win the game. I’m glad I kept him on, I can’t profess to be any sort of genius” explained the Northern Irishman, knowing full well that Danny Ings was set to replace the Brazilian before he found the back of the net. “We were very fortunate he got the goal, he stayed on and we won the game,” continued Rodgers before warning that the diminutive attacker will only get better as the season progresses, “Coutinho is already is a star. He’s only been back three weeks training so he’s not even at his peak.”