Extraordinary Coutinho strike settles ordinary Liverpool win
Memories of 6-1 defeat to Stoke on final day of last season are wiped away
Philippe Coutinho scores Liverpool’s winning goal during the Premier League game against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters/Livepic
It was an extraordinary moment to settle such an ordinary match and for Liverpool a goal that should have therapeutic effects bearing in mind the last time they played at this ground Brendan Rodgers had set off on the walk down the touchline at the final whistle looking like a man on his way to the guillotine.
Philippe Coutinho’s dipping, swerving shot, from fully 30 yards, will not expunge the memories of that 6-1 drubbing here last May when Steven Gerrard’s final match for the club turned into the kind of harrowing ordeal he could scarcely have imagined at one time.
Yet it was a start. When Coutinho took aim, four minutes from the end of a hitherto bland and directionless match, the game had entered a period when the Liverpool supporters behind Jack Butland’s goal could probably be forgiven for feeling startled by the lack of refinement their team had shown.
Coutinho had clearly had enough of the mediocrity. Breaking through the middle, his shot was struck with a wonderful mix of power and precision. The Brazilian’s accuracy from distance has been a formidable weapon for Liverpool and, though Butland did get his fingertips to the ball, that was the moment that completely changed the complexion of the match.
Liverpool are clearly a work in progress, still working out how to play to Christian Benteke’s strengths, but there was an impressive debut for James Milner and Coutinho’s late winner should also have the added effect of releasing some of the pressure that has been on Rodgers.