Liverpool ended their four-match Premier League winless run with a dramatic 1-0 win over Stoke City.
Glen Johnson was the unlikely hero as Liverpool secured a tight 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Anfield. Steven Gerrard sat on the bench on the 16th anniversary of his Liverpool debut while under-fire keeper Simon Mignolet retained his place in goal. Liverpool were under tremendous pressure to produce a result after three consecutive league defeats and they finally ended this run thanks to a brave Glen Johnson winner late in the second half.
Neither side offered too much offensively in a dour first half but Liverpool looked threatening after the break and Raheem Sterling’s pace and direct play created problems for the Stoke defence. Kolo Toure and Martin Skrel were having a comfortable match dealing with the limited threat posed by Bojan,Jonathan Walters and Mame Diouf. Ex-Liverpool man Charlie Adam who came on as a second half substitute nearly gifted Liverpool the opening goal losing possession cheaply. Against the run of play Bojan nearly gave the visitors a surprise lead when he cut in from the left to strike Mignolet’s left hand post. The match opened up as the chances kept flowing at the other hand with Asmir Begovic keeping out efforts from Lucas Leiva and Rickie Lambert. Steven Gerrard was introduced with 15 minutes remaining on the clock but it was Glen Johnson who was the unlikely hero. The England international who has been the subject of heavy criticism following some below-par displays was the quickest to react as Lambert’s looping header crashed back off the underside of the crossbar. Liverpool held on thanks to a brilliant reaction save from Mignolet who tipped a Bojan volley over the bar to ensure a massive three points for the Reds. Brendan Rodgers was visibly delighted and relieved to grab this crucial win and said to reporters after the match, “It was a hard-fought victory but a well deserved one.”
“People might think I’m happy with wining 5-3 and 6-4 but I’m equally as happy with 1-0. In the first half we had enough of the ball but we lacked a bit of intensity.”
“In the second half we were excellent. You felt the goal was coming. The players deserve a huge amount of credit for the courage and resilience they showed against a good side.”
Rodgers was full of praise for Glen Johnson who scored his first goal in almost two years.”Glen is a good-looking boy so a little bang on his head won’t do him any harm!”
“He showed great courage and bravery. And I was disappointed we haven’t showed that of late. Confidence is a bit low but after the game against Ludogorets in midweek we spoke about how we were going to move forward. We aren’t going to get back to our standards immediately. But you have to show resilience and courage, and then the football will come out.”
Rodgers also had words of encouragement for Simon Mignolet who kept his third clean sheet of the season.”Simon made a couple of great saves. We asked him to simplify his game and do what he is good at, which is shot-stopping. He came for a couple of crosses at the end when the pressure was on. I’m very pleased for him.”
Captain Steven Gerrard was joined on the bench by summer signings Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic as Rodgers kept faith in experienced players like Lucas Leiva and Kolo Toure.
“I wasn’t actually aware it was Steven’s 16th anniversary of his debut until I walked into the dressing room and saw the programme!I told him yesterday he wasn’t playing, it was just to give him a rest. Steven is at the bit of his career where he won’t be playing every minute of every game.”
“The reality is at this level with how competitive the squad is we can’t just be relying on Steven in every single game. We need players in the team with quality and experience,” said Rodgers.”Lucas has come in and been outstanding in the last two games, very tenacious and aggressive and someone who can pass the ball.”
“Kolo Toure’s experience coming in has been good for us. The guys who have come in will get an opportunity over time.”
“We are in a moment where we need to get results and improve our style of football and get confidence into the team. In the last couple of games we have shown we are slowly getting there.”