So we now know that Jürgen Klopp can do it on a wet and windy Tuesday night at Stoke. After the weekend capitulation at West Ham, Liverpool responded to their German manager’s demand for a response as Jordon Ibe’s goal put the eight-time League Cup winners one step closer to Wembley.
Stoke failed to live up to their hype in front of their expectant supporters, but much of that was down to Liverpool and Klopp’s tactical blueprint.
The Merseysiders nullified Stoke’s attacking talents and outran their midfielders to claim a deserved first-leg lead in this Capital One Cup semi-final.
Having overcome Stoke on the way to winning this competition in 1995, 2001 and 2012, Liverpool will hope the omens are on their side again as they attempt to win silverware for the first time since Kenny Dalglish guided them to success in this competition four years ago.
Much water has passed under the bridge since Liverpool were humiliated 6-1 at this stadium last May.
Brendan Rodgers has been replaced by Klopp and Mark Hughes has added Xherdan Shaqiri and a fit-again Bojan Krkic, following the Spaniard’s cruciate ligament injury, to the team which trounced the five-time European champions at the Britannia.
Jurgen Klopp's best quotes
Jurgen Klopp's best quotes
1/11 Signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan
"Mkhitaryan fits us like an arse on a bucket. What he offers is exactly what we need."
2/11 On his wife's books
"She wrote a book for children. It's like Harry Potter - but it about football. There's no Harry Potter flying on his f****** stick - just football."
3/11 His singing skills on the team bus
"I couldn't have been a rock star, although I do sing Country Road very loudly on the PlayStation karaoke game."
4/11 What he told his players after a poor first half
"I told my players during the break: Since we're here anyway, we might actually play a bit of football."
5/11 Are players banned from having sex before matches?
"My players sleep in double rooms the night before the match. I hope that nothing happens."
6/11 To a rival Schalke fan on the secret of winning the Bundesliga
"How do you explain to a blind person what colour is?"
7/11 Borussia Dortmund's rivalry with Bayern Munich
"We have a bow and arrow and if we aim well, we can hit the target. The problem is that Bayern has a bazooka. The probability that they will hit the target is clearly higher. But then Robin Hood was apparently quite successful."
8/11 On his playing career
"I never succeeded in bringing to the field what was going on in my brain. I had the talent for the fifth division, and the mind for the Bundesliga. The result was a career in the second division."
9/11 On Bayern
"They are like the Chinese in the business world. They look at what others are doing and copy it, just with more money."
10/11 Losing the 2013 Champions League final
"The only thing I can say is that it was great. London is the town of the Olympic Games. The weather was good, everything is OK. Only the result is s***."
11/11 On having had a hair transplant
"Yes, it's true. I underwent a hair transplant. And I think the results are really cool, don't you?"
Having won 1-0 here on the opening day of this season, Liverpool had quickly exorcised their Stoke demons, but Hughes’s team have since bounced back to claim impressive home victories against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United to justify Klopp’s pre-match claim that Liverpool were tasked with overcoming a dangerous obstacle in their efforts to reach Wembley.
But that challenge became even more difficult when Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren both limping out of the game in the first half with hamstring injuries.
Coutinho, Liverpool’s creative force, lasted just 17 minutes before sustaining his injury while crossing the ball and Lovren, who has been impressive at centre-half, gave up the ghost 16 minutes later, having pulled his right hamstring while attempting to block a cross.
The changes left Liverpool facing an hour with Lucas Leiva alongside Kolo Touré at centre-half against Stoke’s in-form attacking players.
Liverpool had dominated the opening period, with Klopp’s decision to drop centre-forward Christian Benteke in favour of the more mobile Roberto Firmino looking justified. Stoke could not cope with Liverpool’s pressing high up the pitch and their first mistake came on 35 seconds, when Erik Pieters was dispossessed by Firmino 35 yards from goal.
The Brazilian had a clear run on goal, but by shooting straight at goalkeeper Jack Butland, he displayed the confidence of a £29m forward with just one goal to his name this season.
It was a warning shot to Stoke, however, that Liverpool were determined to play on the front foot after proving so disappointing when losing 2-0 at West Ham at the weekend.
This was the Liverpool who rattled in six goals at Southampton in the previous round – Adam Lallana forced Butland into another save and Coutinho was denied a clear shot on goal by Ryan Shawcross’s brilliantly timed challenge inside the area.
Stoke were struggling to lay a glove on the visitors and they did not go close until the 26th minute, when a clever corner by Shaqiri picked out the unmarked Bojan in the penalty area.
The former Barcelona forward had time and space and appeared destined to open the scoring, but he missed the ball completely, much to the delight of the 3,500 Liverpool supporters behind the goal.
It would prove to be a costly miss, with Liverpool substitute Ibe putting Klopp’s team ahead on 37 minutes following a break down the right by Lallana.
The former Southampton forward had been released by Nathaniel Clyne and his pull-back to Joe Allen from the byline was neatly laid on by the Welshman, leaving Ibe to take a touch before guiding his shot past Butland.
Allen, resembling Andrea Pirlo with his beard and long hair, delivered the crucial touch with his disguised pass, however. It was the kind of ball of which his Italian lookalike would have been proud.
But for a reflex save by Simon Mignolet deep into first-half stoppage time, when the Belgian dived full stretch to his left to deny former Anfield team-mate Glen Johnson, Stoke would have hauled themselves level before the break.
With that chance going astray, however, Hughes chose to bolster his team’s attacking options by replacing midfielder Geoff Cameron with Jonathan Walters at the interval.
And although Firmino should have done better after being set free inside the Stoke penalty area on 47 minutes, Hughes’s change helped tilt the balance of play back in his team’s favour.
Bojan was able to find more space with Walters occupying the Liverpool centre-halves and Stoke began to find gaps.
The home side were harshly denied a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor on 53 minutes when, after Touré had cleared Marko Arnautovic’s free-kick to the edge of the penalty area, Glenn Whelan appeared to be fouled by Alberto Moreno as he challenged for the ball.
Taylor shook his head and dismissed Stoke’s appeals, angering Hughes on the touchline.
Liverpool then had a penalty claim of their own, albeit less convincing, when Clyne was knocked to the ground by Arnautovic with what appeared no more than a well-timed shoulder charge.
Despite having a second-leg to come at Anfield, neither team was prepared to settle for the narrow margin of 1-0 and Ibe shot into the side-netting after being released by Firmino on 68 minutes.
Hughes threw on Joselu, who forced Mignolet to backpedal hastily to tip over a deflected 77th-minute strike.
Liverpool held firm, even when Peter Crouch was given a late chance to rescue Stoke from the bench, but the sight of Touré limping heavily at the end was worrying for Klopp. It leaves Liverpool will no fit centre-halves for Friday’s FA Cup trip to Exeter City.
Man of the match Lucas.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee A Taylor (Gr Mancs).
Attendance 27,369.Reuse content