For the 2nd time in 3 seasons, Liverpool escaped with a 1-0 match week 1 win over Stoke City. This time it was not the heroics of Mignolet (though he was solid), but a late wonder strike from our Little Brazilian that saved the day. In what was a very bleak and boring performance from Liverpool’s attack, Philippe Coutinho flashed a bit of magic in the 86th minute with a 30 yard strike that just beat the keeper to the back of the net.
The Belgian was not tested very frequently, but he rose to the occasion when he was asked to. His distribution still needs some work, but overall decent performance.
While Gomez does look a top prospect, he made some critical errors which could have resulted in goals if we’d faced a better side. Overall, I thought Gomez played quite well, but he needs to continue to improve if he wants to hold his starting spot.
No Liverpool player has faced as much criticism as Lovren heading into the season. Many, including myself, were not pleased when it was announced Rodgers would select the Croatian over the reliable Sakho, but Dejan Lovren played quite well. Lovren had several key clearances and was barking instructions to the back line. He was a big part of the clean sheet.
Aside from a few dodgy backpasses, which tested Mignolet a bit, Skrtel had a good day. He became more comfortable as the match carried on, and his play in the centre of the defense helped Liverpool maintain a clean sheet.
Not much was asked of Nathaniel Clyne in his competitive Liverpool debut, but he played well, albeit unspectacular. He was solid defensively and helped out a bit going forward, where his counter-part Gomez struggled. All-in-all, solid performance from Clyne.
Liverpool’s new captain did not influence the match as much as we are used to. His passing was erratic and he attempted far too many Hollywood passes in the match. His work rate was immense, which is part of the reason Liverpool were able to tip the possession stats in their favor, but we have seen much better from Hendo.
Boring James Milner. He was not as creative as some would have liked, but James Milner was pretty efficient in distribution nonetheless. A few reckless tackles and some crunching body work really kept Stoke’s midfielders on their toes when he was nearby.
At times, Jordon Ibe looked to be Liverpool’s most dangerous player on attack. Threatening to break the match open with his electric pace and agility, Ibe constantly found himself within striking distance. His end-product was lacking, however, and he left no mark on the match as he was subbed off in favor of Firmino.
Coutinho: 7 (G-86′)
Coutinho was at his usual best when on the ball, turning up the pitch and really moving play forward. He lacked touch on his final ball for the most part, playing passes just beyond the reach of several Liverpool players throughout the match. Coutinho left his trademark on the match in what can be described as a worldie. A magnificent rip from 30 yards out barely tipped the keepers outstretched hand on its way to the back of the net. An absolute beauty.
Adam Lallana’s hair was the only impressive part of his performance this weekend. Utterly ineffective and turning on a pivot endlessly, Lallana finds his position in the starting XI under threat.
Not a dream debut, but one Benteke can probably be happy with. He looked extremely strong and physical, winning aerial duel after aerial duel. His first touch was solid and he was a menace to defenders physically. Benteke’s movement was about his only issue. The Belgian striker had a tendency to find himself standing and watching play develop instead of trying to get involved.
Enough cannot be said about Emre Can’s impact on this match. Winning crucial tackles and allowing Milner and Henderson to push further up the pitch really opened up Liverpool’s attack late and eventually lead to Coutinho’s 86th minute winner. Can looks to have earned himself a place in the starting XI.
Firmino: No Rating
In just under a quarter of an hour on the pitch, Firmino wasn’t really given the time to make an impact. He had some errant passes early, but when he settled down, he looked classy in possession and technically proficient. With time in the first team, he can have a massive impact.
While not the most impressive Liverpool performance, Liverpool could do much worse than 3 points at Stoke on opening weekend. With Chelsea, Tottenham, and Arsenal all dropping points, Liverpool will be thankful to collect max from the first match and are already looking forward to lining up at Anfield against Bournemouth.