It’s three points in the bag, and that’s always a sound start, but if this game illustrated anything for the Liverpool fans, it was that a Reds team without the little Uruguayan may simply not have enough creativity to open teams of a higher level than Stoke City.
Whilst Daniel Sturridge lead the line energetically, and took his goal well, a better team than Stoke City would have made Liverpool pay for not closing the game out. As it happened, Brendan Rodgers’ team were forced to rely on Simon Mignolet penalty save to keep the lead intact late on. The fact that Jonathan Walters failed to convert the penalty should not hide the inadequacies on display for the home team.
There are of course extenuating circumstances – aside from Suarez’s absence that is. With new players such Aspas and Mignolet having to be settled into the team, it was never going to be a massively coherent display. The problem however is, that for all Sturridge’s endeavour and directness, plus the probing and prompting of Coutinho, Liverpool could not add to Sturridge’s goal. On paper this should be one of Liverpool’s easiest games, but it never really looked that way. The whistling of the home fans as injury wore on, to encourage the referee to end the game witnessed their concern.
From a Stoke City perspective, this was a reasonable performance. Limited and somewhat pedestrian at times, they were never anything less than hard-working with a potential to nick one on the break. It so nearly came off for Mark Hughes’ team.
On balance, it’s a little difficult to decide which manger would be most satisfied with the result. The three points will clearly give comfort to Rodgers, and he’ll be hoping that with a couple more games under their belts, a bit more coherence will return. That may have to wait however until Suarez returns – if he does.