By the time the 85th minute rolled around, a lot of Liverpool fans had given up on taking anything more than a draw home from the Britannia. In isolation, the result wouldn’t have been so bad. In the context of last season’s disappointments, it was difficult to see it as anything but another. Simon Mignolet, though, says he always knew a Liverpool goal was coming.
"I knew what was going to happen," Mignolet told the Liverpool Echo following a match that frustrated right up until Philippe Coutinho’s magical moment in the 86th minute earned the Reds all three points. "The moment Philippe got the ball out of his feet and cut inside I was shouting, ‘shoot!’ He did the same at Bolton and Blackburn last season. We all knew what was going to happen."
Until Coutinho scored, it had been a disappointing afternoon. Liverpool had set up awkwardly, and as in pre-season, Henderson and Milner looked in need of a midfield anchor to provide a base for their forward thrust. Christian Benteke, meanwhile, had looked just as isolated an ineffective as any of Liverpool’s misfit frontmen from last season that are now either gone or on the chopping block.
It was a side that showed many of the problems that plagued Liverpool during the first half of last season, and given how last season turned out, it was easy to see a Liverpool side making the same mistakes all over again. And then Coutinho picked up the ball and did the thing he so often does, shrugging off a challenge and making room for himself and unleashing a belter from distance.
"I see that quality from him every day in training," added Liverpool’s Belgian ‘keeper. "That great talent is something he was born with [and] he also works his socks off for the team. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of that from him this season."