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Stoke City 0, Liverpool 1: First Thoughts

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It was nervy at times--one goal matches always are--but it was an altogether very good performance, especially considering the early injuries, which continue to plague this Liverpool squad.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

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Stoke 0:
Liverpool 1: Ibe 37'

  • Pre-match: Is it still too soon to start getting excited about the League Cup? Probably. Can't feel too comfortable with Toure coming in for Sakho, and I was really hoping that Milner would be fit enough to start (yup, that sure felt weird to type). The question, as has been the case for the last year and a half, is: where are the goals coming from? I don't have an answer to that question, and neither did Rodgers. Klopp has also mostly failed to unleash the stored potential energies of Lallana, Coutinho, and Firmino, but hopefully one or more of them will find a way through tonight. Liverpool should have enough to see off Stoke over two legs, but if we've learned anything over the past couple of months with Klopp in charge, we are wholly unpredictable. 

  • Firmino intercepts an early pass, and runs at goal, unleashing a weak shot from outside the box. Minutes later Moreno presses, wins a ball, lashes in a dangerous cross, and wins a corner. Followed immediately by another corner. Good stuff from the outset, already showing more attacking prowess in the first two minutes than the last 90.
  • Lallana unleashes a belter from 25-yards that was destined for the bottom corner, were it not for Butland's intervention. More of that please, minus the saving bit.
  • Early chances failed to open the scoring for Liverpool, and Stoke have begun growing into the game. Looks like this should be a fairly open affair, with both teams buzzing from the nervous energy of a semifinal.
  • Panic at the Britannia! As Coutinho pulls up and grabs his hammy after no contact. Klopp was right, "hamstring" is the shit word of the year. Ibe on for The Unicorn.
  • You can feel that Coutinho's injury has taken a bit of wind out of Liverpool's sails. They're not quite pressing with the same intensity, and again looking out of ideas in and round the box.
  • SHIT. Now Lovren goes down, grabbing his hammy. Dejan off, Milner on. Lucas moves to center back. We officially have one healthy senior--very senior--center back on the squad. I can't...I can't even.
  • GOAL! Some good pressing sets Lallana free. He squares it Allen, Allen squares it again to Ibe, and Ibe buries it in the far corner. Brilliant response from the hobbling Reds. 1-0, and a vital away goal.
  • Fantastic save by Mignolet right at the end of the half. The ball was driven low and hard through a whole bunch of bodies, but the Belgian was up to the task. 

  • Halftime: The opening 18 or so minutes from Coutinho is the best we've seen from the Brazilian since his last injury, picked up against Manchester City. Phil loves the big games, but it would be nice to see the best from him against the Sunderlands and Newcastles of the world. Speaking of injuries, Liverpool just can't catch a break. Today it's one step forward, three back, with Milner coming back only to lose Sakho, Lovren, and Coutinho. Other than all that, the half was one of the better ones we've seen under Klopp, and the lead is deserved. 

  • SET PIECE DEFENDING! Liverpool escaped a dangerous set piece just before halftime, and right after. Stoke are really pressing for that equalizer in the early stages of the second half, and it could be a long 45 if the Reds don't find a way to relieve this pressure.
  • Shaqiri nearly catches Liverpool out, beating the offside trap, but just can't get on the end of the through ball.
  • Firmino has attempted a couple of shots from just outside the box, and hasn't missed by much. He'll connect one of these days, and it'll be sweeeet. Now, will it be worth all the wasted opportunities it took to get there? Probably not.
  • We've legitimately missed Milner's work rate and pressing. We've not missed his set piece delivery. Like, at all.
  • Looks like Liverpool were screwed out of a pen, either from a handball (seriously, refs, is that still a rule or what?) or from Allen being brought down in the box. On that note: a quick shout out to Wee Joe Allen. He's acquitted himself well today, including smart assist on Ibe's goal. He's been linking up well in the attacking third, and should have won us a penalty.
  • The ref finally calls a foul! On Mignolet for taking too long on goalkicks.
  • Liverpool make their final sub: Benteke on for Allen. Because, um...reasons? This is a weird sub to make, given Allen's game and the fact that the midfield actually midfielded today.
  • As stoppage time begins, Toure pulls up with--what else?--an apparent hamstring pull. And then there were no fit senior center backs.
  • Liverpool survive one last scare at the death, but Walters puts his shot wide. 

  • Full time: Can't say too many negatives about today's performance. Liverpool faced adversity with the early injuries to Coutinho and Lovren, but showed enough going forward to snatch a goal on the break, and ultimately the win. Liverpool take this one-goal advantage back to Anfield, where they'll look to sew up their ticket to Wembly.

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.