Johnson thrilled by 'perfect night'

Liverpool full-back delighted to make goalscoring home debut in 4-0 defeat of Stoke
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The Independent Football

Glen Johnson admits he could hardly have expected a better start to his Liverpool career. The England full-back was the star of the show when Liverpool won 4-0 at Anfield against Stoke on Wednesday night.

He scored on his home debut and helped to create two more in a devastating display of attacking full-back play down the right. And manager Rafael Benitez, his Stoke counterpart Tony Pulis and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard were lining up to praise Johnson, who turns 25 tomorrow.

Even in defeat at Spurs last weekend Johnson was the Liverpool star turn, winning a penalty with a battling run into the box and attacking on the flank whenever the chance came along.

Greenwich-born Johnson reckons his instant form is all down to the speed with which he has adapted to his new surroundings. He said: It has been absolutely brilliant for me so far at Liverpool. The lads and everyone at the club have been fantastic.

"It has been great for me and helped me to settle in here quickly, and that has shown in my performances already so I am delighted. It was great to run out at Anfield, and to get the three points and keep a clean sheet made it a perfect night for me.

"To score a goal made it even better. Obviously it was brilliant to score my first for Liverpool and to do it on my home debut was amazing, but the win was more important to get us out of the starting blocks. It was great to be part of the home side here for a change. As an opponent the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when the fans at Anfield sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" so to hear them singing it for you is very special.

"At a club like Liverpool you don't want to lose any match, so to lose the first game of the season was disappointing. But the lads showed great character to put that behind us and hopefully we can go on a good run now."

Gerrard praised his England team-mate, saying: "We saw what Glen will offer this team with the run that won the penalty at Spurs. He cut inside and left people for dead. He showed similar form against Stoke and was outstanding."

The Stoke manager Pulis witnessed his side being pulled apart by Johnson's display and his partnership with Dirk Kuyt. He said: "Johnson and Kuyt down the right caused us loads and loads of problems. They have great players all over the pitch. Not only (Fernando) Torres and Gerrard, who are world class. [Yossi] Benayoun comes in off the left flank and does damage."

Benitez's decision to add an attacking full-back to his squad who could make an impact in tough home games where teams defend in depth was vindicated.

The Spanish coach said: "We were looking for a player with quality going forward, to produce more chances from the wide areas. We knew Johnson could score goals. From set-pieces he is dangerous, we initially worked with [Javier] Mascherano in that close-in position by the goalkeeper at corners, but decided to change because Johnson was proving to be good in that role. His goal was proof of that."

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