Liverpool 1 Stoke City 0 match report: Daniel Sturridge fires Liverpool to opening day victory but Simon Mignolet takes the plaudits for late penalty save

Reds get off to a good start but had the Belgian goalkeeper to thank after they failed to convert their dominance in to more goals


Roy Evans, perhaps the most underrated of all Liverpool managers, once remarked that a season without European football was “like a banquet without wine”.  However, they will take their water at Anfield if it sparkles like this.

The scoreline was 1-0 but the afternoon was a rout. Liverpool struck the frame of Asmir Begovic’s goal twice and the frame of the Stoke keeper many more times. The Bosnian gave the kind of display that suggests he could play for any team in Europe.
The men in front of him suggested they might be good enough for any team in Staffordshire. Mark Hughes did not attend the post-match press conference because he had a plane to catch. His plans to transform Stoke from football’s equivalent of a Ronseal tin to something slightly more sophisticated are also up in the air.
Nevertheless, however much this was the game of Begovic’s life, the morning headlines belonged to the other goalkeeper, who for the vast majority of the afternoon had performed horribly erratically.
Nerves affect sportsmen in different ways. Just before he qualified for the 1500m final in Moscow this week, the Scottish middle distance runner, Chris O’Hare, confessed to being ‘petrified’. However, the nerves that cling to a goalkeeper are more acute than almost any others.
For Sunderland, Simon Mignolet had proved his ability many times over but he was replacing Pepe Reina, one of Liverpool’s great keepers who holds the club record for successive clean sheets, and he admitted the first quarter of an hour in front of the Kop had affected him badly. “You wouldn’t trust him with the washing up,” remarked the commentator from Radio Stoke as he spilled a straightforward cross.
Two minutes from the end, another cross was driven into the Liverpool area and this time the handling was rather better. Unfortunately for the home side, the hand belonged to Daniel Agger.
Jonathan Walters invariably puts his penalties to the keeper’s right and he did so once more without even striking it particularly well. Mignolet parried the shot and saved the rebound, ending up in the arms of another debutant, Kolo Toure.
Stoke had not scored a league goal at Anfield since 1983 and that in a match they had lost 5-1 and yet in an encounter Liverpool dominated, they might have had three. Robert Huth drove against the crossbar and Lucas Leiva cleared off the line from Ryan Shawcross.
Not since two goals from Michael Owen had overcome West Ham a dozen years ago had Liverpool won their opening league fixture and the game this sometimes resembled was the one that opened their campaign two seasons ago, against Sunderland. Then, they had battered their opponents to their knees and somehow contrived to draw a game that featured a missed penalty from a promising young footballer named Luis Suarez.
Yesterday the man who gives almost daily and invariably contradictory interviews on his desire to quit Merseyside made the brave decision to go to Anfield, where his shirt had been burned a few days before with his three-year-old daughter, Delfina. Both inside and outside the stadium, his reception was reasonably cordial.
His manager, Brendan Rodgers, who commented that the victory showed Liverpool’s innate spirit “in spite of everything that has been thrown at the club”, added: “Luis is part of our team and part of our club and our supporters are a class act. The Liverpool way is always to support the players.”
Liverpool began the season as Europe’s least relevant great club. This is their fourth season outside the Champions League and Rodgers’ task is to take them back or lose his job.
If more teams allow Philippe Coutinho the amount of space in the final third that Stoke did, his task will be considerably easier. With every attack, with every display of quick feet, with every dead ball delivered by Steven Gerrard, Rodgers’s vision for Liverpool looked like it might be solidly founded.
Daniel Sturridge anticipated Gerrard’s free-kick slightly too early and was offside when he headed past Begovic. Coutinho delivered a lovely, measured ball that gave Jordan Henderson time to pick his spot. He chose Begovic’s knee cap. Toure headed against the crossbar, Henderson struck the post.
Then, just as Rodgers was writing a note that Sturridge should shoot more, he did so, past the tips of the goalkeeper's gloves and into the corner of the net, fulfilling his instructions to the letter.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine