Liverpool gained a measure of revenge for last season’s hammering at the Britannia Stadium as Philippe Coutinho’s sweet late strike sealed a 1-0 win over Stoke City.
Since going down 6-1 at the hands of Stoke some 77 days ago on the final game of last term, Rodgers has brought in a host of new faces, but it was the Brazilian who proved his worth four minutes from time with a moment of magic.
Christian Benteke, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez all made their competitive Liverpool debuts and, for much of the contest, the visitors lacked cohesion in the final third.
Stoke’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Geoff Cameron and substitute Philipp Wollscheid were largely able to deal with Benteke’s physical threat as Brendan Rodgers’ new-look side looked set for a frustrating stalemate.
However, shortly after compatriot Roberto Firmino was introduced, Coutinho produced an early goal-of-the-season contender from distance in their Premier League opener.
The Brazil international cut in from the right and unleashed an unstoppable 30-yard drive past Stoke’s new number one Jack Butland that goes some way to papering over the cracks on show in Liverpool’s attack.
Amid an evenly-matched start, Charlie Adam snatched at a half-chance early on as both sides struggled to find rhythm, having named seven starting debutants between them.
A loose backpass from Martin Skrtel almost allowed Mame Biram Diouf in – Simon Mignolet was quick to react and clear the danger – before Glen Johnson came close to scoring against his former club.
Following Ibrahim Afellay’s blocked shot, the ex-Liverpool defender dragged the ball across him before stabbing over.
Tempers then flared when another former Liverpool man, Adam, took exception to a Milner challenge towards the end of a first period lacking clear-cut chances.
Having avoided a repeat of the first-half horror show in the corresponding fixture last term, which saw them 5-0 down at the break, Liverpool started the second on the front foot.
The crucial final pass continued to elude the visitors as Rodgers opted to introduce Emre Can for Adam Lallana shortly after the hour.
Coutinho always looked the most likely to unlock Stoke’s defence and his craft set up Benteke, only for the Belgian to see another effort blocked, with Jordan Henderson adding to the striker’s frustration with an overhit cross.
Stoke got deeper as the game drifted away and Coutinho eventually punished the hosts with a trademark drive from distance.
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