Match Report: Stoke City V Liverpool

Philippe Coutinho secured Liverpool an away victory against Stoke with a long range strike late on during Sunday’s four o’clock kick off.
The Brazilian’s effort proved to be the difference in a dull opening weekend fixture, helping Liverpool fans to move on after their side were humiliated 6-1 in the corresponding fixture on the final day of last season.
Both sides were restricted to very few chances, contributing to a forgettable game until Coutinho beat Jack Butland in the Stoke goal with just four minutes remaining.
Glen Johnson, deputising against his former employer, had the best chance of the first half as he found the ball at his feet after Charlie Adam’s blocked shot, before striking over the bar.
Liverpool looked understandably nervous throughout the first half, restricting themselves from committing too many men forward.
Brendan Rodgers’ side favoured a more solid and reserved approach to the game, using the ball carefully in order to prevent Stoke from gaining any kind of momentum in their play.
Stoke, too, offered very little spark to the game and rarely threatened to score. Their best moments came from teasing Charlie Adam free-kicks which Liverpool were often able to deal with.
Despite both sides being nowhere near their best, Dejan Lovren impressed at centre back beside Martin Skrtel. The former Southampton man looked a powerful presence in the air and looked assured in his play for the first time in a Liverpool shirt.
Young Joe Gomez, in his first start in the Premier League, also looked a reliable outfit up against Jonathon Walters. The Stoke winger used his experience to win cheap free kicks against the youngster however the make shift left back didn’t shy away from the challenge and looked comfortable in Liverpool’s back four.
At the other end of the pitch, Christian Benteke was kept relatively quiet on his debut with his best chance coming when the ball fell to him after a driving Coutinho run was stopped, only for the Belgian’s eventual shot to find a wall of Stoke bodies.
Liverpool’s Jordan Ibe was his side’s brightest player for most of the game, working well with right back Nathaniel Clynne in both attack and defence.
Stoke’s best attacking play came mainly down the flanks with new boy Ibrahim Afellay and Jonathon Walters looking lively.
The game seemed to pick up slightly as the second half went on, however chances remained very far and few between. As a goalless draw looked increasingly likely, Coutinho produced a moment of magic as he unleashed a shot, reminiscent of his winner against Southampton last season, beating Butland and securing an away victory for his side.

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