Half-time substitutes Philippe Countinho and Firmino fired Liverpool to victory as the Reds came from behind to beat Stoke City.
Both players were surprisingly dropped to the bench as Jurgen Klopp rang the changes from the side held by Bournemouth in midweek with youngsters Ben Woodburn and Trent Arnold-Alexander taking their place in an experimental 3-5-2 system. However Klopp’s risk didn’t pay off as the visitors produced a tepid first-half performance and deservedly fell behind just before the interval, albeit in controversial circumstances.
Erik Pieters was adjudged to have fouled Woodburn inside the Stoke penalty area but referee Mike Dean dismissed the appeals, allowing the hosts to break forward as Xherdan Shaqiri picked out the unmarked Jon Walters, who headed in his seventh career goal against the Merseysiders.
The introduction of Coutinho - who had been suffering from a bug for most of the week - along with Firmino at the interval prompted a complete turnaround with two goals within two minutes midway through the second-half. First Coutinho levelled the scores after a Stoke defensive blunder before Firmino put the visitors ahead with a sensational individual effort.
Liverpool had goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to thank for preserving the visitors' lead as the Belgian pulled off a remarkable save to deny Saido Berahino his first goal in Stoke colours. The win – Liverpool’s first on the road this year – is a much needed boost in their bid to claim a top-four place as they move nine points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, although Arsene Wenger’s side have three games in hand over their rivals. Meanwhile, Stoke’s fourth consecutive loss means they drop to 13th, eight points above the drop zone.
Is this a turning point in Liverpool’s season? A welcome break of eight days without a game should allow some of Liverpool's stars to make a full recovery and the squad will return to action at West Brom on Sunday in much better condition for the first of six pivotal but ultimately winnable games, knowing exactly what is required to achieve a top-four finish.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool): The goalkeeper has taken plenty of flak this season but the Belgian was in inspired form today as he pulled off a couple of brilliant saves and even looked assured at the majority of set-pieces.
Stoke: Grant 7; Johnson 6, Shawcross, 6 Martins Indi 6, Pieters 6; Shaqiri 7, Allen N/A, Cameron 6, Arnautovic 7; Walters 7, Berahino 6. Subs: Adam 6, Whelan 5, Sobhi 6.
Liverpool : Mignolet 8, Clyne 6, Lovren 6, Klavan 5, Matip 6, Milner 5, Can 5, Wijnaldum 5, Alexander-Arnold 5, Woodburn 5, Origi 6. Firmino 8, Coutinho 8, Sturridge 6.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Super subs get Liverpool out of jail at Stoke