Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stoke City 1 Liverpool 2: Coutinho and Firmino shine in comeback win

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 8 Apr 2017

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Philippe Coutinho became the Premier League’s top scoring Brazilian as the forward and compatriot Roberto Firmino helped Liverpool come from behind to win 2-1 at Stoke City on Saturday.

Jonathan Walters had put Stoke ahead shortly before the interval, heading home from close range after Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross rounded off a rapid counter-attack from the hosts after Ben Woodburn’s penalty appeal was rejected.

But a half-time double change from Jurgen Klopp turned the game on its head and boosted Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification, with Coutinho and Firmino introduced at the interval.

Coutinho grabbed the equaliser with a neat finish from inside the penalty area and just two minutes later the visitors were in front in stunning fashion.

Firmino let fly with a brilliant volley that gave Lee Grant no chance and, although Simon Mignolet had to deny Saido Berahino his first Stoke goal, Klopp’s men held on for a priceless victory.

Liverpool’s first win in six away Premier League matches keeps them in third place, while Stoke are not quite safe despite having 36 points on the board after losing their fourth straight league game.

Shaqiri was making his first appearance for Stoke since January and he had the ball in the net after two minutes, only for the offside flag to deny him a goal on his return.

Stoke tested Liverpool’s surprise adoption of a back three with sustained early pressure but the first shot came from Divock Origi, whose effort flew well wide after 18 minutes.

Mignolet made a comfortable save from Marko Arnautovic after 28 minutes and the Austrian then hit the side netting from inside the box after Dejan Lovren’s mishit clearance looped up kindly.

Shortly before half-time Liverpool were denied strong penalty appeals when Woodburn went down under Pieters’ challenge and Stoke promptly scored on the counter-attack.

Lovely build-up play involving Glen Johnson freed Shaqiri on the right side of the penalty area and his chipped cross gave Walters a simple close-range headed finish for his seventh Premier League goal against Liverpool.

Klopp responded by making a double change at the break, bringing on Brazilian duo Coutinho and Firmino for youngsters Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Stoke should have extended their lead when Georginio Wijnaldum headed the ball into the danger zone, but Mignolet did well to block Adam’s effort with his legs.

Origi bent an effort wide after 54 minutes and Grant had to save from Firmino and Coutinho as Liverpool pushed for an equaliser, before Lovren’s header crashed against the crossbar.

Coutinho provided the leveller for Liverpool with a history-making 30th Premier League goal, slotting in after a scramble in the Stoke box, and his fellow Brazilian Firmino turned the game around for Liverpool just 126 seconds later.

A ball over the top found Firmino in behind the Stoke defence and he took the shot early, slamming a sensational volley into the top corner and giving Grant no chance.

Liverpool were indebted to Mignolet, however, the goalkeeper making a brilliant reaction save to deny Berahino when the striker looked certain to score from close range, and Klopp’s men are now nine points ahead of Arsenal in the race for top-four places.

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