The Premier League is back and what a first game it was, and it was also the first live league game on BT sport. Liverpool were looking ahead to a season hoping to push for a top four spot, and improve their home record. They were looking for a winning start to their campaign which they have failed to do in the last few seasons.
For Stoke, they will hope to not only break into the top ten for the first time in their history but also change their style of play. This is why they appointed Mark Hughes as he can enforce a more attractive style of football.
As per usual there was a great atmosphere at Anfield to give the players a lift. Liverpool had three players making their debut and all of them made a massive contribution to their win.
Liverpool started the brighter side with intricate passing, and although they were playing narrow they were causing Stoke all sorts of problems. They were chasing the ball for large periods of the game and it didn’t help that they had a defensive line up, so they couldn’t hit on the counter when they had the ball.
However, Stoke grabbed the first real chance of the game through Robert Huth who smacked the bar from a corner. In the warm up, Mignolet was practising how to deal with balls into the box but that counted for nothing because he didn’t get a good punch away, and nearly paid the price. This was the story of the Belgian’s first half but I think it was just nerves. Liverpool failed to defend early on but that improved as the game grew, and as the saying goes the best form of defence is attack.
The Reds had a corner of their own shortly after and Stoke defended it as well as their opponents defended just before. Toure got away from his marker to get an effort on target but it smacked off the bar. I know the centre back was bought to improve the defence but he loves to attack the ball when he can.
With Liverpool controlling the game, they forced some stunning saves from Asmir Begovic who put in a man of the match performance. Begovic was beaten by Sturridge after a great whipped delivery from the free kick by Gerrard. It was picture perfect from the skipper and it was a good header from Sturridge but it was rightfully ruled out for offside. The striker went to quickly but it will give him confidence because heading isn’t his strength.
The Englishman did get his deserved goal before the break after a great move from the front three and the midfield. With Aspas, Coutinho and Sturridge rotating positions for the move it was difficult to deal with from a Potters point of view. It was a long range shot from the number 15, it hit off the post and in to finally get the goal the home side deserved. From a personal point of view for Sturridge he would also be glad to score because he was denied a few times by woodwork and Pieters’ goal line clearance.
The goal was a poor one to concede from Hughes’ point of view because his side should have closed Henderson down so he couldn’t provide the pass for the forward. As well as that, Huth should have closed down the goalscorer because it went through the defender’s legs.
Stoke improved in the second half with Walters stretching the defence on the counter, and the midfield starting to defend a little less and attack a little more. At set pieces, N’Zonzi was a threat but he was also racing forward at any opportunity. He was also getting into physical side of the game and could have been sent off for losing this temper.
Liverpool’s number ten was the player pulling the strings for his side and he was always looking for the ball. He is already a fans favourite because he gives everything he can on the pitch. Stoke improved when they brought on Adam and Pennant because it added more creativity.
Iago Aspas linked with Henderson late on to seal the win but it didn’t go in. Henderson’s curling shot was palmed onto the post by the goalie, and this started to frustrate the home side.
This was Aspas’ last significant contribution to the game because he was taken off to a standing ovation. I like watching the number 9 because he drops back to help the midfield, he can also score goals which he showed in pre season. He likes to dash into the box and I think the fans are already starting to take to him.
Late on, Daniel Agger handled the ball, which was obvious, to concede a penalty. Walters stepped up to take the spot kick and he looked confident. Obviously Mignolet did his homework because the strike placed it in the same corner he has in his last couple of attempts.
The keeper became an instant hero after a nervy start to give his side all three points. Once the penalty was given there was a sense around the ground that all the hard work was going down the drain. It wasn’t to be and the keeper received a round of applause from the fans. It was a great start to the season and I can’t wait for the season to continue. A great example of English football.