Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City

Liverpool beat Stoke City in the opening game of the season 1-0, with Philippe Coutinho scoring a 25 yard screamer.

Much of the pre-match coverage has been surrounding the mauling that Liverpool underwent last season when they lost 6-1 to Stoke City. With today’s victory it’s a step in the right to remove the awful memory as far away as possible from the minds of all those connected with the club.

For extended periods of the game I was extremely frustrated after the all the pre-season hype seemingly amounting to nothing.  Narrow play constantly going sideways and despite a brief spell of play from Coutinho in the beginning of the game there was very little to comment on.

I was very impressed, however, with James Milner, Liverpool’s new vice-captain.  From the off Milner ran his feet into the ground and no ball seemed a lost cause to the Englishman. His work ethic was limited to the early stages of the game while he was still fresh with the Red’s new number 7 pressing defenders right until the final whistle went.

Earlier this afternoon Arsenal took on West Ham and were defeated 2-0 in what was a resounding win for new manager Slaven Bilić. Arsenal fans were very boisterous in their hype about Arsenal’s chances this season.  A player who has been subject of much debate on social media platforms is Mesut Özil. He was very much a missing man in the Northern Londoners defeat today and many Liverpool fans were expressive in their comparisons between the German and Philippe Coutinho.

So imagine my dismay when for 80 minutes of the game Coutinho was essentially ineffective. His passing wasn’t nearly as piercing and his runs from midfield weren’t putting Liverpool on the attack in the way we have become used to. Ten minutes before the Brazilian scored the winner the turn that he had been attempting finally paid off and he nearly found a way in to the Stoke box unobstructed.

Jordan Henderson said that when he saw Coutinho cut inside he knew that the little magician would make the keeper work, and work he did. When Liverpool’s number 10 hit the shot that ultimately won the game Twitter erupted with praise for the Brazilain. Some of this praise was proper and some was phallic and profane. In summary everyone thought his goal was an absolute screamer.

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Despite having good games Jordon Ibe and Joe Gomez both suffered as a result of the rawness of youth. When speculation about Gomez starting his first Premier League game arose many were worried about him being too “green.” This is a fairly fair concern. But in a day and age where 16 year olds can start in midfield against Arsenal Football Club it is a different story to twenty years ago.

The catalyst for change was Emre Can, as I predicted. I said in my article last week that the German needs to feature if Liverpool are to have a solid balance in midfield between attack and defence. The combination of Milner and Henderson is one that has developed quickly and has loads of potential but both seem keen to push forward and forget to sit in. Can will provide the holding “know-how” to remedy this.

Roberto Firmino featured briefly but I was very impressed with his skill. Typical of a Brazilian he loves to keep the ball in the air. It is very easy to see that he will be able to contribute to Liverpool’s attack. The question is how? It is difficult to include Lallana, Ibe, Coutinho and Firmino in support of Benteke without ruining the flow of the play.  It is definitely refreshing to see that Brendan Rodgers finally has selection headaches.

Next up in Liverpool’s fixture list is against new boys Bournemouth. Liverpool will look to use the opportunity to build on the opening day win with Arsenal following the game against Bournemouth.  It is well documented how important it is for Liverpool to get a good start to the season and the first challenge of the season has been passed.

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