Stoke City vs Liverpool: Post Match Analysis
Liverpool made three changes to their side with Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino only fit for the bench and Joël Matip replacing Lucas Leiva, enabling a switch to a back three, as Trent Alexander-Arnold came in at right wing back and Ben Woodburn in up front alongside Origi. Milner moved into midfield.
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Klavan, Clyne, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Woodburn, Origi
Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge
Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino came off the bench to score vital goals as Liverpool’s top four challenge was revitalised by a phenomenal second half display to overturn a 1-0 deficit and defeat Stoke City 2-1 at the Britannia. Going in at half time 1-0 down, after a dismal, turgid first half, Liverpool’s top four hopes looked to be hanging by a thread before their magical Brazilians came on to turn the tide.
And this was very much a game of two halves. The first half was an awful game of football, with one moment of shambolic defending costing Liverpool seconds after they were denied a penalty. But Liverpool scored twice and were lucky not to concede twice in an incredible, pulsating second half.
Lining up in an unfamiliar 3-5-2, and missing five of their starting front six, Liverpool looked understandably disjointed early on, and were given a warning when Stoke had a goal ruled out inside 3 minutes as Xherdan Shaqiri, who was dangerous all day, was adjudged offside.
But whilst Liverpool struggled to get going, they would consider themselves unfortunate to be behind at half time, as seconds before Shaqiri’s cross was headed in by Jon Walters, the lively Ben Woodburn was caught inside the box by Eric Pieters, only for the referee to wave play on.
And Klopp gambled, throwing Coutinho and Firmino on at half time immediately, despite being unsure that either was fit enough to play 45 minutes. And the two Brazilians immediately got to work, both testing Lee Grant with fizzing efforts as Liverpool started the second half strongly, Dejan Lovren also rattling the crossbar.
However, as good as Liverpool looked coming forwards, their defensive issues refused to go away, as a shambolic header from Gini Wijnaldum inside his own box gave Charlie Adam an almost certain goal, only for Mignolet to throw himself in the way with a phenomenal save.
And then the visiting fans were treated to two pieces of Brazilian magic. First a terrific ball from the bombastic Emre Can dropped nicely to Coutinho, who finished clinically inside the box, before a long ball from Wijnaldum dropped over Firmino’s head, and he struck it beautifully, a stunning hit from twenty five yards to send Klopp and his players into raptures.
But the final word ended up going to Liverpool’s Belgian keeper. Simon Mignolet has got a lot of stick this season but his second big save, this one denying Saido Berahino was nothing short of world class, and it ended up being enough for the three points.
Key Talking Points
Half fit Brazilians save the day
It was a huge gamble from Jürgen Klopp to throw both Firmino and Coutinho into the game at half time, unsure whether either would be able to make it to full time. But whilst the pair were running on empty by the end, their superior quality changed the game with two exceptional finishes to drag Liverpool kicking and screaming to three points.
Mignolet’s moments of magic
If Coutinho and Firmino were the game-changers, then Simon Mignolet remains the match-winner with two unbelievable saves at critical points in the game. The first from point-blank range to deny Adam came early in the second half, when Liverpool were finding their feet and a second goal would have killed them off, and again just after the Reds took the lead with one of the saves of the season to deny Berahino. Mignolet has had a pretty average season but this was a day for him to savour.
Back five fails to solve defensive problems
Klopp’s tactical shift to 3-5-2 was a dismal failure as Liverpool were overran in the first half. And whilst the switch to 3-4-3 in the second half had the desired attacking effect, nevertheless defensively Liverpool remained all over the place. Klavan and Lovren looked horribly out of place in the channels either side of Joël Matip and Stoke’s wingers caused endless problems out wide.
Simon Mignolet – 9/10: If goalkeepers can ever be given the titles of match-winners, then Mignolet earned that title today with two saves of the highest quality to keep Liverpool in the game. Continued to look more solid off corners too.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6/10: Asked to do a thankless job at right wing-back but performed admirably. Defensively he played quite well and offered one or two bright moments coming forwards. More to come from him.
Dejan Lovren – 6/10: Looked extremely uncomfortable on the right side of a back three and made some big errors in the first half. Probably should have been the one picking up Walters for the goal, but in the second half he made some exceptional challenges and crucial interceptions to slightly raise his grade.
Joël Matip – 6/10: Looked a bit lost in the middle of the back three as Stoke consistently dragged those around him out of position. Maybe could have done better with the goal but overall bit of a nothing performance from Matip.
Ragnar Klavan – 5/10: Another poor display from Klavan. Pitiful challenge for the goal, lucky not to be sent off for a cynical challenge on Shaqiri having already been booked and ran ragged all afternoon.
Nathaniel Clyne – 6/10: Wretched first half, as he was another player to look horribly out of position at left wing back. But another player to massively step up his performance after the break on his natural flank, with some excellent defensive work and a really impressive attacking display.
James Milner – 6/10: Quiet and unspectacular, Milner didn’t stand out as either good or bad in this game. Struggled in central midfield as he kept drifting out to the left but offered more at left wing back in the second half.
Emre Can – 8/10: Colossus in the second half, with some brilliant runs and passes in the midfield. Looked isolated in the middle of midfield in the first half but really stepped it up after the break and worked incredibly hard all afternoon.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6/10: Hard one to score. Anonymous first half, not much better for large periods of the second and made a couple of really poor errors that nearly gave up goals. But on the other hand, his assist for Firmino’s goal was absolutely sublime and he had more of an impact as the game ran on. Another one averaging out at a 6.
Ben Woodburn – 7/10: Liverpool’s best player in the first half and unlucky to be hauled off at half time. He looked very bright, the only player to offer a spark before the break and some smart passing under pressure. Needed more support.
Divock Origi – 5/10: Really not his day. Liverpool keep not playing to Origi’s strengths, but every time he did make an intelligent run into the channels it usually ended with him giving the ball away. Very poor performance.
Phillipe Coutinho – 8/10: The man. Scored a lovely goal, played three key passes, completed 20/21 passes (including 3 out of 4 crosses and 2 long balls) and just generally changed the game when coming on. In a rich vein of form.
Roberto Firmino – 8/10: Firmino’s goal was as sensational as it was important. A stunning strike, a huge goal and he worked as hard as he always does. Vital performance from Bobby.
Daniel Sturridge – 6/10: Performed well when he came on. Ran hard, made some really intelligent and dangerous runs and caused Stoke’s defence problems. Unlucky not to get any clear openings.
Man of the Match: Simon Mignolet
Written by Tom Holmes