Coutinho strikes brilliant late winner as Liverpool tops Stoke City
STOKE, England (AP) — Philippe Coutinho struck a superb late goal to give Liverpool a winning start to the new Premier League season with a barely-deserved 1-0 victory at Stoke on Sunday.
A drab encounter at the Britannia Stadium appeared to be drifting toward a goalless draw when the Brazilian midfielder suddenly found the net with a ferocious 25-meter shot in the 86th minute.
It was Liverpool's only serious effort of the game and, although the contest had opened up more in the second half, the home side seemed the more likely to score.
Along with a positive start to life without Raheem Sterling after his move to Manchester City, the victory also gave Liverpool a measure of revenge after being thrashed 6-1 at the same ground on the final day last season.
Rodgers is trying to build a new side after an extensive summer of recruitment and the departure of Sterling.
Liverpool started with six of the players who featured in that Britannia Stadium hammering 77 days previously but handed starts to four new signings in Christian Benteke, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez.
Stoke, which gave debuts to former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson, Ibrahim Affelay and Marco van Ginkel, was the more positive side, while Liverpool looked disjointed and lacked rhythm.
An effort from Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf did not trouble Simon Mignolet between the Liverpool posts and a floated free kick from Charlie Adam into the box came to nothing.
Adam Lallana had an attempt deflected wide for Liverpool, and it was not until the 36th minute that Stoke created the first serious openings.
Van Ginkel forced Martin Skrtel to hook a deflected cross off the line and Affelay's follow-up volley was blocked by Clyne. The rebound fell to Johnson but he scooped the ball over.
A tense match became even scrappier as Adam took exception to Milner's challenge and pushed the Liverpool man over and referee Anthony Taylor needed his whistle with increasing frequency.
The game improved slightly after the break with Van Ginkel forcing a save from Mignolet and the hard-working Jordon Ibe skipping into the Stoke area only to be denied by a well-timed tackle from Marc Muniesa.
Stoke made a final push and Skrtel blocked well from Van Ginkel, and Diouf headed over from Johnson's cross, but Coutinho had the final word with a fierce shot that clipped Jack Butland's gloves on the way into the net.