Stoke 1 Liverpool 2: Super subs Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino strike to reinforce top-four ambitions

John Percy
Firmino celebrates with Coutinho after the pair deliver an incredible comeback

Jurgen Klopp made a rapid transformation from tinkerer to tactical genius as Liverpool reinforced their Champions League ambitions.

The introduction of substitutes Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino at half-time swung the game dramatically and spared Klopp from a severe post-match inquest at the end of a capricious week.

Coutinho’s swift recovery from illness provided the cure for Liverpool, who had been abymsal in the first half, with the Brazilian’s cameo proving pivotal before Firmino’s brilliant winner.

Klopp had admitted he was almost sick after the giveaway against Bournemouth at Anfield on Wednesday night but this was infinitely more palatable, Liverpool’s first away win in the Premier League in 2017.

Firmino’s goal completed a remarkable turnaround to sentence Stoke to their fourth successive defeat and Mark Hughes cannot have failed to hear the boos at the final whistle.

Mark Hughes shows his frustration Credit: REX FEATURES

It could have been uncomfortable for Klopp too, after he bamboozled his own supporters by placing Coutinho and Firmino on the bench, opting for teenagers Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold at a venue renowned for tests of bravery.

Yet whether it was a gamble that went awry or a slice of fortune (it certainly appeared the former), Klopp escaped scrutiny after a win that lifted Liverpool into third place, nine points clear of Arsenal in fifth.

“Job done, it feels good,” beamed Klopp. “Nice weather, 63 points and I couldn't feel any better. No team in the world wins only the very, very good games. You need to win games like this.

“We played a big gamble on a low battery bringing on Firmino and Coutinho. Phil [Coutinho] lost three kilos in the last three days which some people wish but for a professional footballer it's not too cool.”

Walters celebrates Stoke's first-half goal Credit:  PPAUK/REX/Shutterstock

There was also an outstanding save from Simon Mignolet late on, with the Liverpool goalkeeper somehow preventing Saido Berahino’s close-range effort from finding the net, and this felt like a huge statement as they bid for a top-four finish.

Simon Mignolet saves from Saido Berahino Credit: REUTERS

Stoke are playing like they want the season to end quickly and should have put a wimpish Liverpool out of sight in the first half.

The home team’s domination paid off two minutes before half-time, barely 60 seconds after Liverpool claims for a penalty following a rash challenge from Erik Pieters on Woodburn.

It was a sorely-needed piece of magic from Xherdan Shaqiri, making his first start since January, with the Swiss winger scampering past Ragnar Klavan to advance into the area and present an unmarked Jon Walters with a simple header from four yards. Walters, an Everton fan, loves playing Liverpool and this was his seventh goal against them.

Stoke 1 - 0 Liverpool (Jonathan Walters, 44 min)

Liverpool had been dreadful and Klopp responded at half-time, bringing on his two Brazilians. 

Yet Stoke should have increased their lead shortly into the second half, when Charlie Adam wasted an easy chance after Gini Wijnaldum’s miscued headed clearance and it proved a costly miss.

Liverpool were now in control, with Dejan Lovren heading against the crossbar, and Coutino delivered the equaliser 20 minutes from time, ramming the ball home after Stoke made a mess of Emre Can’s cross.

Stoke 1 - 1 Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho, 70 min)

They were ahead two minutes later, as Firmino raced clear to produce another emphatic finish.

Stoke 1 - 2 Liverpool (Roberto Firmino, 72 min)

Mignolet’s save from Berahino moments later was breathtaking but there was no grandstand finish and Liverpool never looked in genuine danger of a Bournemouth repeat.

Hughes said: “We didn't deserve to lose the game in my view. We've got a big game coming up against Hull next weekend and we just need to get the job done.”

4:55PM

Full time: West Brom 0-1 Southampton

It's all over at The Hawthorns.

4:55PM

Average touch positions (full time)

Average touch positions (full time) 4:54PM

Full time: Stoke 1-2 Liverpool

The final whistle blows at bet365 Stadium.

4:54PM

Average touch positions (full time)

Average touch positions (full time) 4:53PM

Full time: Middlesbrough 0-0 Burnley

It's all over at Riverside Stadium.

4:53PM

Average touch positions (full time)

Average touch positions (full time) 4:52PM

Full time: Man City 3-1 Hull

The final whistle blows at Etihad Stadium.

4:52PM

Average touch positions (full time)

Average touch positions (full time) 4:44PM

GOAL!

Andrea Ranocchia scores what looks to be a mere consolation for Hull to make it 3-1.

Man City 3 - 1 Hull (Andrea Ranocchia, 85 min) 4:32PM

GOAL!

A goal from Roberto Firmino for Liverpool makes the score 1-2.

Stoke 1 - 2 Liverpool (Roberto Firmino, 72 min) 4:29PM

GOAL!

An equaliser from Philippe Coutinho for Liverpool makes it 1-1.

Stoke 1 - 1 Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho, 70 min) 4:23PM

GOAL!

Fabian Delph makes it 3-0 and puts Man City firmly in the driving seat now.

Man City 3 - 0 Hull (Fabian Delph, 64 min) 4:07PM

GOAL!

Man City have doubled their lead, and it's Sergio Agüero with the goal to make it 2-0.

Man City 2 - 0 Hull (Sergio Agüero, 48 min) 4:07PM

One-way traffic at Etihad Stadium

It's been all Man City, with the hosts racking up 15 shots so far - Hull have managed just four in reply.

Man City vs Hull shots on goal 4:04PM

Second half: Stoke 1-0 Liverpool

The action restarts at bet365 Stadium.

4:03PM

Second half: Man City 1-0 Hull

The second 45 has begun at Etihad Stadium.

4:03PM

Second half: West Brom 0-1 Southampton

We're back under way at The Hawthorns.

4:03PM

Second half: Middlesbrough 0-0 Burnley

We're back under way at Riverside Stadium.

3:49PM

Half time: Stoke 1-0 Liverpool

The half-time whistle blows at bet365 Stadium.

3:49PM

Average touch positions (half time)

Average touch positions (half time) 3:48PM

Half time: Middlesbrough 0-0 Burnley

The teams head in at the break at Riverside Stadium.

3:48PM

Half time: Man City 1-0 Hull

The teams head in at the break at Etihad Stadium.

3:47PM

Average touch positions (half time)

Average touch positions (half time) 3:47PM

Average touch positions (half time)

Average touch positions (half time) 3:47PM

Half time: West Brom 0-1 Southampton

The first 45 minutes is up at The Hawthorns.

3:47PM

Average touch positions (half time)

Average touch positions (half time) 3:44PM

GOAL!

Jonathan Walters strikes late in the first half to open the scoring. 1-0 to Stoke.

Stoke 1 - 0 Liverpool (Jonathan Walters, 44 min) 3:43PM

The shot count is similar

Middlesbrough and Burnley are evenly matched in attack so far - the home side have fired in five shots to the visitors' five.

Middlesbrough vs Burnley shots on goal 3:40PM

The shot count is similar

Stoke have attempted three shots so far, compared to one for Liverpool.

Stoke vs Liverpool shots on goal 3:32PM

OWN GOAL!

Ahmed Elmohamady has put through his own net, making the score 1-0.

Man City 1 - 0 Hull (Ahmed Elmohamady, 31 min) 3:30PM

Neither side able to dictate the game so far

Stoke having more of the ball so far, with 210 touches to 208 from Liverpool.

Stoke vs Liverpool 3:27PM

Southampton are dominating the ball so far

Southampton are making the hosts do the chasing - they've had 237 touches of the ball compared to just 147 for West Brom.

West Brom vs Southampton 3:26PM

GOAL!

Southampton take the lead, and it's Jordy Clasie with the goal: 0-1.

West Brom 0 - 1 Southampton (Jordy Clasie, 25 min) 3:20PM

Hull hit back

Hull have their first shot at goal, while Man City have registered four efforts so far.

Man City vs Hull shots on goal 3:18PM

Liverpool have their first sight of goal

Liverpool respond to the earlier Stoke effort with their first shot of the game.

Stoke vs Liverpool shots on goal 3:18PM

It's been a shot-shy start to Middlesbrough v Burnley

Tense opening quarter of an hour at Riverside Stadium, as Middlesbrough and Burnley struggle to get shots on goal

Middlesbrough vs Burnley shots on goal 3:17PM

Neither West Ham or Swansea are testing the goalkeepers so far

Tense opening quarter of an hour at London Stadium, as West Ham and Swansea struggle to get shots on goal

West Ham vs Swansea shots on goal 3:16PM

Neither West Brom or Southampton are testing the goalkeepers so far

Not much to do for either keeper at The Hawthorns - West Brom and Southampton keeping each other at bay.

West Brom vs Southampton shots on goal 3:15PM

Stoke and Liverpool yet to find a way through

Not much to do for either keeper at bet365 Stadium - Stoke and Liverpool keeping each other at bay.

Stoke vs Liverpool shots on goal 3:14PM

Burnley have their first sight of goal

Burnley respond to the earlier Middlesbrough effort with their first shot of the game.

Middlesbrough vs Burnley shots on goal 3:13PM

Southampton threaten for the first time

Following the earlier West Brom effort, Southampton register their first attempt at goal.

West Brom vs Southampton shots on goal 3:13PM

Man City enjoying plenty of touches of the ball so far.

Man City have had 142 touches of the ball compared to 52 by Hull.

Man City vs Hull

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