For the first time in four attempts, Liverpool won an opening day fixture at Anfield by beating Stoke City 1-0 in the first match of the 2013/14 Premier League.
Whilst Daniel Sturridge scored the winning goal, and Coutinho created the most chances and attempted the joint-most tackles for the Reds, illustrating that he has a blend of both steel and style, I’m going to take a closer look at Liverpool’s three debutants: Kolo Toure, Iago Aspas, and penalty hero Simon Mignolet.
Toure’s most notable impact on the game was probably his header which cannonned off the Anfield Road end crossbar, marking the first of three occasions during the match that the frame of the Stoke goal was struck (and this after the Potters had rattled the Liverpool woodwork themselves, when Huth wasted the first of their three clear cut chances).
It should also be noted though that he won four aerial duels, which was the most of any Red on the day. He could be a key player in Liverpool’s next match, at Villa Park on Saturday; Christian Benteke won fourteen aerial duels against Arsenal on Saturday, which was the same amount as the whole Liverpool team managed between them. Toure’s aerial contribution could prove to be vital if the Reds are to keep a clean sheet against the Villains next weekend.
Iago Aspas had a fine game in his competitive debut for Liverpool. The former Celta Vigo man created five open play chances, plus a clear-cut opportunity, in just seventy-two minutes on the pitch.
It’s important to remember that this was just one game, at home, against the team that finished thirteenth in the league last season, but at the same time top chance creators average around three open play chances, and less than one clear-cut chance, per ninety minutes, so if Aspas can keep even close to the form he displayed at Anfield on Saturday then he will surely be near the top of the creative charts in May.
Unfortunately Liverpool missed all three of their clear-cut chances on the day (with Enrique, Coutinho and Henderson the guilty parties), but that they managed to create a few against a dogged and defensive Stoke City bodes well for when the other ‘park the bus’ sides visit L4.
Aspas set up Sturridge for the winning goal, completed an accurate through ball, and had one shot on target, a possession win in the final third, an interception and a successful tackle. A very tidy debut from the Spaniard.
To put it mildly, Simon Mignolet had something of a mixed afternoon. He initally looked very nervy, and missed a cross (something he did just three times in the whole of last season), but his confidence grew as he made some decent saves, and he capped it all with a double save in the final few minutes, as Stoke missed a penalty and the follow up shot.
According to Opta, Pepe Reina saved just seven clear-cut opportunities last season. By saving Jon Walters’ penalty and Kenwyne Jones’ follow up, Mignolet added two to his Liverpool account in the space of about five seconds!
It was a satisfactory day for the new boys overall, but the challenge now is to repeat the trick in the next two diffcult matches away at Villa and home to arch-rivals Manchester United.