STOKE 0 – 1 LIVERPOOL

Liverpool start the new Premier League season with a victory away from home.

It wasn’t the best performance ever seen and may have had less goals in it than some of our pre-season friendlies, but we did well to go up against the team that beat us 6-1 in the last game of last season and take all three points from them this time around.

The manager has 7 new players at his disposal and he is already making good use of them.

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The starting lineup would include Joe Gomez, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne and Christian Benteke. Divock Origi, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings and Adam Bogdan would all make the substitute bench as all of our new transfers were selected in some capacity for the squad against Stoke.

As the game began, it was clear that Liverpool would not have an easy first fixture. We looked equal with our opposition, neither was out playing the other for large periods of time. It was end to end football. They attacked, we defended. We counter attacked and then they defended. On and on this went, with neither side scoring until very late into the game.

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Jordan Henderson is the newly promoted Liverpool captain and he did a fine job of leading his team in our first official Premier League fixture of the new season. Always challenging for every ball in his area of the pitch (central midfield), assisting the players who were in need of it, unselfishly passing the ball around rather than holding it and attempting to score himself – he may not be Steven Gerrard, but he was a good example of how to be a captain. I don’t think Liverpool fans will be calling for a new captain any time soon, he’s proven himself worthy of the role.

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James Milner was recently named vice-captain, despite only being a new signing for Liverpool. It’s something he may have to prove worthy of, but he’s done well so far. He fought hard in Liverpool’s midfield, so hard that the referee would eventually end up showing him a yellow card by the end of the first half. I don’t approve of players getting booked, but it usually shows a passion for the game. They battle so hard that they may see more cards in games than less passionate players. He’s also an experienced Premier League player who knows when to start playing smarter and avoid getting sent off. He is not a reckless player with many red cards to his name. I’ll be happy to see him fighting hard for our team in future games.

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Joe Gomez did well at the back and some would already say that they’d rather have him than Alberto Moreno featuring in the left back position for Liverpool this season. I don’t think he’s fully proven why he should be playing and instantly selected ahead of Moreno, but we’ll see as the season progresses whether he’s ready to become a regular starting 11 player or if he’ll just be back up for Moreno. The manager’s given him a chance tp prove himself already and if he keeps playing well, I’m sure he’ll be able to keep his place in the starting 11.

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Another player worth a mention and some praise is Jordon Ibe. With Raheem Sterling gone off to Manchester City in search of more money than he can fit into his wallet, Ibe has been selected as one of the players who will be replacing Sterling, pushed into the position that he used to play in. Sterling was often on the wings and that’s where we saw Ibe showing how dangerous he could be. Ibe’s a nightmare for defences, making unpredictable runs that are difficult to defend against, attacking and assisting the strikers when needed. I really enjoy watching him play and look forward to seeing him action plenty more times this season.

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Christian Benteke made an impact on the game, though I did not rate him as the best player on the pitch for this fixture. Brendan Rodgers certainly favours the 4-5-1 formation which saw Balotelli play all alone in a strikers role last season. Now it seems, Benteke will possibly play in the same role as the single striker ahead of 5 midfielders. What I think we have now is a better midfield and better assistance for the striker, even if there is just to be one of those. I was often disappointed last season with players like Joe Allen and even Raheem Sterling (yes he was talented but also very greedy and selfish with the ball at times, he’d rather shoot himself than pass). I saw in this game and see in the future Benteke being very well provided with the assistance he will need to score goals. There was multiple opportunities he was given. Not all of them were easy, some high balls from crosses went too high to head and some went too far to make any contact at all… but he was in a dangerous position and if the right ball eventually finds him, he looks dangerous enough to score. He’s shown a glimpse of what could be and with plenty of midfielders assisting him, it’s likely he will be a valuable asset this season for Liverpool.

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Firmino seemed to be quite inspirational. He was only brought on as a substitute from the 78th minute, but by the 86th minute – Liverpool had scored a goal. I honestly think it was partly down to Firmino’s contribution that we managed to score within ten minutes of him being on the pitch. He wasn’t the goalscorer himself for this game but I valued what he brought to the game, highly.
He was fast and he was dangerous. He won challenges, he took the ball forward and he ran like an Olympic Gold medalist sprinter at the Stoke defence, who were helpless and could only watch him as he sped past them, creating opportunities to score for his teammates and himself.

I look forward to seeing him in action and hope he maybe find his way into a starting 11, though we have such a strong midfield this season. Using one valuable player requires moving another one to the substitute bench. However Coutinho and Firmino are a magical Brazilian partnership that I really want to see as much as we can of. If he has to be on the substitute bench, I’d hope he gets at least a full second half for every game. That’ll be down to the manager but often, nearing 80 minutes is typically when managers start using substitutes. 10 minutes left to go in the games you’re playing and you have a fresh player who isn’t tired. It’s supposed to be smart tactically, but I still think a young, fit player like Firmino could handle 45 minutes rather than 10.

Coutinho runs past former Liverpool player Glen Johnson to score the winning goal of the game

Coutinho runs past former Liverpool player Glen Johnson to score the winning goal of the game

Coutinho was my “Man of the Match”. I loved watching him run all over the pitch, pushing forward so often that it almost seemed like the manager had chosen 4-4-2 formation (but we all know Rodgers loves his 4-5-1  style of play). There’s not really a defence in the entire Premier League that can stop Coutinho when he’s determined to do something. This certainly wasn’t his debut, he’s gone up against the best of English football before and we’ve seen him beat them all. There’s a reason he’s nicknamed “magician” – his football is simply, MAGIC. His run past Glen Johnson was magic, his powerful shot that beat the Stoke goalkeeper was magic. It was a magical goal from the moment he received the ball, started running towards goal making his way around Stokes defence – right to the moment he struck the ball sweetly and powerfully and even as it hit the goalkeepers fingers, the ball still found it’s way into the net.

Coutinho’s single goal was the game winning goal and pushed Liverpool into 5th place, as 1 of only 6 teams who managed to get a win in their first Premier League game of the season. It proved that Stoke didn’t have what it takes to do beat us heavily (like 6-1) again, as we have clearly improved on last season. Our squad is stronger and ready for anything. Coutinho is one of the reasons other teams will fear playing us. He fully deserves every last bit of praise I have for him.  Watch Coutinho closely this season, with his Brazilian friend Firmino now at the club, they are a force not to be underestimated. They’re going to have an impact on every game they play in together and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. Exciting football is what it is.

I hope you enjoyed the victory as much as I did, Reds. I’ll have the news about every last fixture of the season all for you, Anfield Family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

[written by] Stuart Drewery.

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I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.

I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.

 

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