09 August 2015

Liverpool 1-0 Stoke

Coutinho 86'

Your star player has to win you the games where you don't play especially well. And Philippe Coutinho did that today.

Just like Brendan Rodgers drew it up, I'm sure.

Look, your concerns are all valid. Liverpool weren't very good. Liverpool's first three shots, the only three in the first half, were all blocked. Liverpool's first shot on-target didn't come until the 63rd, from Dejan Lovren of all players.

Liverpool's quasi 4-3-3, quasi 4-2-3-1 formation, with Henderson usually at the base but also trying to join infrequent attacks, left Benteke isolated, with Ibe often well-marked and Lallana invisible. Liverpool's two new fullbacks were restrained, clearly more focused on solidifying the defense than adding to the attack. It made for a fairly dire opening hour.

This side, for all the new players, clearly remembers the last trip to Stoke. Brendan Rodgers clearly remembers the last trip to Stoke.

Liverpool's priority was to keep it tight, to eliminate the mistakes and Stoke chances which plagued last May's massacre. Maybe sneak a goal, but otherwise keep it level for an hour before gradually opening up the throttle. And that's exactly what happened.

Sure, Stoke had a couple of first half chances, chances better than anything Liverpool created, both cutbacks coming from debutant Joe Gomez's (and Dejan Lovren's) flank. But Adam mis-kicked his opportunity, Glen Johnson skied his. It's about time they started earning all those Liverpool paychecks. So, yes, Liverpool got a little lucky, but on the whole, Liverpool did actually defend well, even on set plays.

The pattern remained the same until just after the hour mark, when Emre Can replaced Lallana. It wasn't the expected Firmino substitution - that'd come 15 minutes later - but Liverpool duly improved because the set-up improved: a more orthodox 4-3-3 with Can holding, allowing both Milner and Henderson to join the attack, Coutinho replacing the irrelevant Lallana on the left.

It didn't immediately result in good chances - Benteke's effort blocked, Skrtel straight at Butland from a set play, Coutinho nowhere close from distance, a couple of openings missed because of a poor final pass - but, for the first time, Liverpool actually looked the better side. Stoke had an immediate set-up play opportunity following the substitution, Adam's deep free kick through everyone, requiring a brilliant save from Mignolet, but otherwise, the home side asked few questions.

Regardless, it looked like the game would ebb away, a deserved but unimpressive 0-0 draw. Until Coutinho happened. O Mágico. It's gonna be hard to top the first goal of the season as the best goal of the season.

It's beyond cliché, but three points is three points is three points. Especially in the first game of the season. Especially at the Britannia, where Liverpool's now won two league matches in eight attempts since Stoke's promotion in 2008-09. Two wins (the other, you may remember, in 2013-14), two draws, and four losses. Especially after last May's meeting.

Would I have preferred a more-attacking Liverpool, a Liverpool that did more to try to win the game? Absolutely. Football should be fun, even if it's often not. Liverpool's problems in attack, especially in the first half, were far too reminiscent of last season's struggles.

But Liverpool's caution was understandable. Liverpool's dissonance in attack, with so many new players, was understandable.

All told, this match looked an awful lot like the preseason matches, albeit against better competition. That admittedly won't be enough to achieve this season's goals. But it'll do for now.


Balfy said...

Good comments Nate and as always the most sensible, interesting read post Liverpool games while processing the emotions. I will add that Lovren is going to take time to win people over, me included, but on today he was much improved and Gomez for a new young addition I thought did really well on the whole. As a native of Bournemouth and a lifelong reds fan, next week is going to be special for me.

Dan said...

He only needed to make a couple key saves today, but I couldn't help be impressed with Mignolet for once. Flashbacks to the opener 2 years ago when his penalty save pulled out the victory and we were so optimistic about his start as a Red. He looked calm, confident and commanding today. Hopefully we can see his continued growth and growing confidence into the top tier keeper he can and should be. I for one am optimistic.

Minty, LFC said...

The real question becomes how we approach Arsenal on our next away game. Do we go toe to toe with them and get outplayed as we usually do at the Emirates or do we play ultra tight and compact to limit their chances and hope to exploit them ion the break. I hope BR has learnt from the past three seasons and gets a little smarter in his approach to games. Today it seemed he was but hard to know if that's because of the 6-1 or if it is a new style for him in terms of approach.

Anonymous said...

WTF! Our team has replaced SUAREZ with Beneteke!? And you people are optimistic!?

I'll go ahead a call it. We don't make champions league. We should easily make it every year!

Chelsea who already have LOADS of talent go and get Falcao. We got Benteke.

LOVE how you people SCOLD Balotelli yet Benteke didn't do anything better than Balotelli today. Balotelli could have scored 0 goals against stoke too and for CHEAPER.

Liverpool is so shit. Jordan Henderson doesn't make the bench for Arsenal, Man U, Chelski, Man City, Tottenham.

Jordan Henderson is shit. Clyne was horrid. Gomez was awful, even the announcers admitted as much.

We BARELY beat STOKE! People, c'mon. Stoke didn't even play Crouch or the Nigerian Nightmare up front. They would have beat us 2-1 if they had. Thank God Mark Hughes is god awful manager.

You people win ONE game and act like we have hope lololol.

Ibe was terrible. Everyone in the league knows he cuts in and he can't go around anyone on the outside. He looks fast but actually isn't. He looks like he should be great, but never will be.

Today, it is obvious we missed Sterling. Who the fuck did we replace Sterling with!?

We lost Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez, Glen Johnson, Pepe Reina, Agger, and we replaced them with Benteke, Clyne, Mignolet, Agger and Firmino. SHUT UP! That is a downgrade!

We lost Torres Suarez Alonso Gerrard Agger and have replaced them with no world class talent.

Suarez Torres Gerrard Alonso were World Class.


Thank Brendan Rodgers, you have made us the newest Tottenham/Southampton.

Oh and how AWFUL is LLALANA! He is young and can't last a full 90 against stoke.

Even Arsenal are bringing in talent these days. We bring in CLYNE, Benteke.

Balotelli > Benteke.

When all is said and done Balotelli scores in world cups, scores in big champions league. Benteke never will.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that. You've got to admit though, replacing Agger with Agger was a pretty fair swap.

Tris Miller said...

Pretty sure it's next to impossible to downgrade from Glen Johnson.