Two heroes emerge for Liverpool after the opening match of the new Premier League season: Daniel Sturridge, scoring the only goal and showing that with all the talk about Luis Suarez, someone forgot about him, and Simon Mignolet, single-handedly keeping the three points at Anfield with a penalty kick save.
It’s been quite some time since Liverpool opened the season with a win (five years to be exact), and more interestingly when compared with last season, they didn’t pick up three points through the first five games of Brendan Rodgers’ debut campaign. Doing so against a team they traditionally struggle against, Stoke City, is another very welcoming sign into the new season.
Sturridge was somehow forgotten this offseason by most. Luis Suarez, Luis Suarez and a little bit of Iago Aspas. Sturridge? He’s used to it. Coming in to a new team, giving a very strong performance for a few months, and then somehow having the summer snatch away his place in the rotation. It happened before, but it seems that he did too well last season to push him to the bench once again, not to mention the suspension Suarez is still serving.
The passing looked fine, at its best. The balls rattled the crossbar and the post, even triggering the use of the goal line technology finally licensed to be used, even though we won’t have too many situations that actually require it. Trying to eliminate offside mistakes would have been a more important thing to focus on.
Liverpool dominated the match, but looked far from perfect. First came the issue of making the most of their control, taking 25 shots, 11 of them on goal. Asmir Begovic had an excellent day between the posts, but Aspas, Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, who is for now beating Joe Allen to the first team shirt and playing accordingly, should have done a lot more with the opportunities they were given.
In the back, it was a different story. I’m not sure Kolo Toure was the man Rodgers wanted to see starting next to Daniel Agger. The two didn’t make any serious mistakes, but it’s going to take some time to get their stories straight, especially with a new goalkeeper playing behind them as well. But then again, few teams pose the physical, aerial and direct threat Stoke City do with their style and personnel.
It was interesting seeing Aspas playing off of Sturridge, as somewhat of a second striker/winger, combining quite well with Philippe Coutinho, who was a lot less dangerous than expected, with Stoke keeping a very close watch on him, but his passing, as usual, created a lot of problems for the opposition. Teams have realized he might be Liverpool’s most dangerous player when Suarez isn’t playing, and are acting accordingly.
It’s hard to determine that everything will be OK from now on. Only one win, at home, with a terrible percentage of taking advantage of their chances. But there’s some sort of confidence aura beaming from this Liverpool team, that is still a work in the making, and should look better, regardless of Luis Suarez, as times goes by.