Sturridge fires Liverpool to 1-0 win over Stoke

Simon Mignolet saved a late penalty on his Liverpool debut to

secure a 1-0 win over Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday, with

Daniel Sturridge grabbing the winner to prove there’s life to the

team’s strike-force after Luis Suarez.

Sturridge smashed home from 25 yards in the 37th minute to score

the first goal of the season in the English top flight, but Stoke

was given a golden opportunity to snatch an undeserved point when

Daniel Agger handled the ball in the area in the 88th minute.

Jon Walters’ penalty was saved by Mignolet low down to the

goalkeeper’s right, however, and Liverpool could celebrate its

first opening-day win at Anfield since 2001.

”You always pick the corner to go to and today I picked the

right one,” said Mignolet, who had some nervous moments between

the posts in his first competitive start for Liverpool since

joining from Sunderland in June. ”I kept a clean sheet, which is

the important thing.

”We didn’t manage to get a second goal but we deserved to

win.”

The unsettled Suarez watched the game from an executive box high

in the stands as he served the fifth match of a 10-game ban for

biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a league fixture

last season. He may not have played even if he had been available

after going public recently with his desire to leave Liverpool, in

the wake of an offer of more than 40 million pounds ($62.5 million)

from Arsenal.

Suarez’s attitude has upset Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

but the striker’s return to first-team training Friday suggested

their relationship has been patched up. The Uruguay international

attended this match, taking to the field an hour before kickoff in

his Liverpool strip and carrying daughter Delfina in his arms to a

ripple of applause.

He then took his place in the stands with his family and looked

on as Sturridge collected a short pass from Iago Aspas – another

debutant, alongside Mignolet and Kolo Toure – and fired a shot

through the legs of defender Robert Huth and into the corner of the

net.

Stoke was showing no discernible change in style or approach

under new manager Mark Hughes than there was under old boss Tony

Pulis, who left early in the offseason, and Liverpool should have

been many more goals ahead by halftime.

As was often the case last season, Liverpool created a string of

chances but a mixture of poor finishing and inspired goalkeeping by

Asmir Begovic kept Stoke in the game. In the first half, Toure

headed against the crossbar, and Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique

were also denied, while Philippe Coutinho curled just wide and

Henderson struck a shot against the post after the break.

At the other end, Huth volleyed against the bar in the eighth

minute but the visitors were chasing shadows for much of a

one-sided game.

Despite all of Liverpool’s dominance, though, it needed

Mignolet’s penalty save – and then a block from the rebound off

Kenwyne Jones – to preserve all three points.

”It’s always a concern as a manager when you dominate the game

so much and create so many chances but today we only scored one,”

Rodgers said. ”I was so, so pleased for the players because they

have worked tirelessly and starts our actual season on three

points.

”The fluidity and flow of our game was good, our passing and

combination play was excellent. I thought our intensity from the

off was outstanding.”