In the end everything came together for Liverpool but this was a curious way to win three points, as Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino came off the bench to breathe fresh life into a team that had been sleepwalking towards defeat. On another day they would be called inspired substitutions and Jurgen Klopp would take the credit, although on this occasion it seemed more pertinent to ask why two players who were fit enough to be named as substitutes were unable to make the starting XI.
From Liverpool’s point of view, the main thing is that they won an awkward game, showing character to come from behind and punish a Stoke City team that are in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap. Coutinho hauled Liverpool level after Jonathan Walters had put Stoke ahead in the first half, and Firmino completed the turnaround two minutes later with a goal of the highest quality.
It was just the response that Klopp was looking for on the back of Wednesday’s draw at home against Bournemouth. The Liverpool manager picked a callow team here, giving 17-year-old Ben Woodburn his first Premier League start and including Trent Alexander-Arnold, another teenager, yet both were withdrawn at the interval to make way for the two game-changers.
As for Stoke, they have now lost their last four league matches and have a couple of critical games to come, against Hull at home and Swansea away. They only had themselves to blame against Liverpool, with Charlie Adam and Saido Berahino guilty of failing to dispatch excellent second-half chances.
Full report to follow