On an afternoon Liverpool needed nothing short of three points, they came from behind to beat Stoke City and jumpstart their top four shout.
What a turnaround. pic.twitter.com/scuILQ39g4
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 8, 2017
Jurgen Klopp sent out an interesting lineup for the first half. Perhaps the German meant two things when he said his Liverpool team needed to be more like Chelsea after their crushing draw against Bournemouth on Wednesday as he set his side up in a back three.
Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge each made the bench, while Divock Origi and Ben Woodburn looked to start as a striker pairing. The young Welshman failed to make any real impact on his first Premier League start, though.
Trent-Alexander Arnold also got the start from Jurgen Klopp at right wing back, but he also looked a bit lost during the first 45.
It was Stoke City who would ask all the questions in the first half. Xherdan Shaqiri put the ball in the back of the net three minutes in, but it was correctly ruled offside.
Liverpool tried their best to establish any sort of grip on the game but ultimately failed in what was by far their worst performance in a half for quite some time.
Divock Origi had a decent look at goal 19 minutes in but sent his attempted curler far wide and into the Stoke City fans behind the net. It was Liverpool’s best and only clear-cut chance of the half.
Ben Woodburn’s only contribution to the match came in the 25th minute. The youngster dispossessed Joe Allen near the halfway line and went on a solo run towards goal, but was ultimately stopped by Bruno Martins Indi, who looked strong in the first half.
Woodburn will be disappointed at his lack of production, but his future is still looking very bright for Liverpool.
Simon Mignolet made a comfortable save to deny Marko Arnautovic in the 28th minute. The Austrian winger found a bit of space around the 18 but could not send his left-footed attempt past Mignolet, who had a fine match in Liverpool’s net.
Stoke City would find the opening goal they deserved. The goal was not short of controversy, though. Jon Walters headed past Simon Mignolet from point-blank range after a fine cross from Shaqiri, but it came seconds after Liverpool were screaming for a penalty at the other end.
Ben Woodburn showed a bit of skill on the edge of the 18 and seemed to be taken down by a clumsy tackle by Erik Pieters, but referee Mike Dean was having nothing of Liverpool’s appeals.
— Liverpool Gifs (@LiverpoolGifs) April 8, 2017
Regardless, the Stoke goal was coming. Mark Hughes’ side were beginning to pin Klopp’s team back and took their chance.
When halftime came around, it seemed as though Liverpool were destined for yet another crushing result against an inferior side.
Klopp’s men looked out of it and the youngsters were being dominated by Stoke City’s physically strong players. It was hard to watch players like Arnautovic and Shaqiri have field days against Alexander-Arnold and Clyne while Ben Woodburn could do just about nothing against Stoke City’s physical defense.
Jurgen Klopp would make two substitutions before the second half began. Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, who just missed out on the starting eleven due to a bit of sickness and fatigue, replaced Woodburn and Alexander-Arnold.
The changes made instant impacts. While Liverpool remained in a back three formation, Coutinho and Firmino both came on with a point to prove and pinned Stoke City back as Liverpool began to truly exert their dominance in the second half.
But Stoke City should have been 2-0 up and Liverpool were lucky in the 50th minute. After Dejan Lovren’s half-clearance from a corner, Gini Wijnaldum produced another shocking piece of play when he weakly headed the ball back towards Mignolet. Charlie Adam was the first to react but was stunningly denied at point-blank range by Mignolet, who made his first of two massive saves in the last 45.
The chance gave Liverpool a jolt of energy, though. 2-0 would have been game over for Klopp’s men, but Mignolet’s crucial save gave them some newfound hope.
Roberto Firmino tested Lee Grant with a well hit volley, but the goalkeeper was equal and pushed the shot out for a corner kick, which came to nothing.
Lee Grant made another fine save to deny Coutinho shortly after. The goalkeeper got down quick to save the Brazilian’s fine effort.
Dejan Lovren was the next to come within inches of scoring from the resulting corner. The defender rose high over Ryan Shawcross to meet a Philippe Coutinho corner kick, but was so unlucky to see his effort denied by the woodwork. The chance had gone, but Liverpool were getting closer.
Klopp made his final substitution in the 69th minute when he brought on Daniel Sturridge for Divock Origi. The Englishman was finally back on the pitch after yet another injury spell.
Philippe Coutinho finally found Liverpool’s equalizer they desevred in the 70th minute. Daniel Sturridge was involved in the play as his run was the target of Emre Can’s cross. While Sturridge could not get anything on the cross, his presence forced a desparate clearance out of Stoke’s defense and Coutinho pounced on the loose ball to drive a perfectly placed shot into the bottom left corner.
The goal put Coutinho into the record books.
Coutinho (24) becomes the Brazilian with most goals (30) in EPL history! pic.twitter.com/7oGiNCLFGA
— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStat) April 8, 2017
Then it was Roberto Firmino’s turn less than two minutes later. Georginio Wijnaldum spotted the Brazilian’s run from the midfield and played a perfect ball over the top of Stoke’s defense. The flag stayed down as Firmino channeled his inner Luis Suarez with an absolute screamer from outside the box. The Brazilian did not have to take a touch as Wijnaldum’s ball sat up perfectly for him to smash his effort past a helples Lee Grant.
Bobby Firmino with a screamer!!! Lets hold on now boys! pic.twitter.com/nZa7aRT9nj
— Rousing The Kop (@RousingTheKop) April 8, 2017
The Brazilian’s celebration earned him a yellow card for pulling off his shirt, but it was well worth it. Liverpool had turned the match around in the space of two minutes and Firmino’s tenth goal of the campaign was also one of the Premier League’s goals of the season.
Stoke were not finished, though. If it was not for Simon Mignolet, the Potters weould have found their equalizer only a minute after Firmino broke thier hearts.
The 70 to 75 minute period was one of utter choas. Second after going 2-1 up, Liverpool’s backline were easily carved open by Stoke. Saido Berahino found himself on the end of a perfect cross, but was denyed by Mignolet, who quickly flashed across his goal-line to make one of the saves of the season.
Stunning save by Mignolet that kept us in the game. pic.twitter.com/NZ1ziKaVNr
— Anfield Goals (@AnfieldGoals_) April 8, 2017
The match calmed down a bit after Stoke’s near equalizer and would end in a Livepool victory. It was the Reds’ fifth win of the season when coming from behind and their second come from behind win against Stoke this season.
It was a vital victory for Klopp’s team, who will at least keep their six point cushion on Manchester United and Arsenal, depending on the results tomorrow.
Next up for Liverpool is another big test, an away match against West Brom next weekend. For now, the Reds can sleep well knowing they have saved all three points against a Stoke team that is never easy to beat.