Stoke-on-Trent: Philippe Coutinho scored a stunning late goal as Liverpool avenged their humiliating defeat on last season's final day against Stoke City with a 1-0 victory yesterday.
Liverpool's James Milner (extreme left), Martin Skrtel, Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can and Roberto Firmino (extreme right) celebrate Coutinho's goal. Pic/AFP
The Reds were thrashed 1-6 — their heaviest defeat in 52 years — at the Britannia Stadium 77 days ago, but made partial amends for that loss with a hard-fought win in their opening Premier League fixture on the same ground.
Neither goalkeeper had a meaningful save to make in the match, which appeared to be destined to end in a goalless draw. But with four minutes left Brazil international Coutinho, one of five survivors from that capitulation in May, gave Liverpool the points with a sublime long-range effort.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gave debuts to four of his close-season signings, with Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez in at full-back, James Milner in midfield and striker Christian Benteke leading the line.
The Potters handed first starts to winger Ibrahim Afellay, midfielder Marco van Ginkel and ex-Liverpool defender Glen Johnson. Both sides prodded and probed for signs of weakness in the opening 20 minutes.
A miscued shot from Mame Biram Diouf and a sliced effort from Charlie Adam were the best that Stoke could manage, while the visitors showed neat build-up play with Coutinho's clever runs at the heart of their attacking forays.
Stoke, who were watched in the stands by Inter Milan playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri amid reports of a loan move, opened up the Liverpool defence just after the half-hour mark.