Liverpool: Rotation Pays Off In Stoke Success
Reds record an impressive 3-0 away win on a cold Wednesday night in Stoke...
Liverpool returned to winning ways against Stoke City last night after late goals had forced them to settle for successive draws in their previous two outings.
As he had done for the 1-1 home draw with Chelsea on Saturday, Kop boss Jürgen Klopp made several changes to his starting X1 for the trip to the bet365 Stadium, with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané both returning and Dominic Solanke making his first Premier League start.
In a surprisingly entertaining and attack-minded opening, the visitors, deployed in an uncharacteristic 4-4-2 formation, took the lead in the 17th minute via a neatly dinked Mané finish; the goal facilitated by some great approach play by both Joe Gomez and Solanke.
An aggrieved Stoke felt the ball had gone out of play in the build-up and there was no doubting the validity of their dismay later in the half when Simon Mignolet escaped with just a yellow card after rushing from goal and felling Mame Biram Diouf.
Prior to the shot-stopper's moment of madness, which given he was the last man probably deserved a red, both Mané and Solanke had missed great chances to double Liverpool's lead, the former clipping a post after being sent clean through.
The second half continued in a similar vain to the first with both sides showing plenty of positive intent in an increasingly physical encounter.
For the most part, Liverpool's backline continued to cope well with the contrasting threat posed by the likes of Peter Crouch and Xherdan Shaqiri; Mignolet making a series of telling punches as the hosts became more direct as the game wore on.
With the next goal crucial, Klopp turned to his bench midway through the half, calling upon the steadying influence of James Milner and the potency of in-form attacker Mohamed Salah.
Within 10 minutes the latter had effectively secured the three points when his stunning first time volley emphatically dispatched a great cross by Mané past Lee Grant.
Additional gloss was added to the scoreline seven minutes from time as Salah notched his 17th goal in 21 appearances by picking Erik Pieters' pocket on the edge of the area.
The outcome was perhaps a tad harsh on a Stoke side who were unfortunate in the big decisions and more than matched the Merseysiders for long periods, but that understandably mattered little to Klopp, or anyone within the boisterous travelling support.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, the former Borussia Dortmund manager remarked: "It was hard work, but that's how football should be - especially when you go to places like Stoke, so it was no surprise.
"I think we could have made it a little bit easier for ourselves in the first half if we'd used the two fantastic chances we had. They were not lucky or anything; they were brilliant, brilliant play.
"We didn't use them, so we needed a little bit of luck in the situation around the yellow card for Simon Mignolet - I don't think it was a red card, but of course they could have scored in that situation and then the free-kick from Shaqiri was another real threat.
"Second half, it was still an open game but we should have been clearer in different situations with better passing in this moment, or a little bit cooler in another situation.
"The atmosphere was there and Crouchy as well, so that means you cannot defend these balls clearly because it's difficult. After winning the ball, we should have done a little bit better. Then we changed twice and could decide the game.
"Two fantastic goals [from Salah], brilliant play - especially the second goal and the third one was a nice counter-attack, a nice finish. In the end, it was well deserved but it was hard work. That's how it is and no problem with that."
Liverpool are on their travels again this weekend when they visit Premier League new boys Brighton & Hove Albion for a 3pm GMT kick-off on Saturday.
So that's what both us and Klopp thought about the game, how about you? Let us know your views below...
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