Liverpool got their 2013/14 Premier League campaign off to a winning start thanks to a Daniel Sturridge strike, but it is new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who is likely to be most talked about in the aftermath of this fixture thanks to a penalty save on his full debut that ensured his side collected all three points.
Brendan Rodgers named three new signings in his first starting XI of the season – Mignolet, Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas. It had been questioned if Sturridge would be fit enough to start this game but the England forward was indeed selected to spearhead the Liverpool attack.
The Reds started brightly, and spent the opening 5 minutes of the game camped in the Stoke half. A succession of chances from Aspas, Jose Enrique and Philippe Coutinho meant Stoke ‘keeper Asmir Begovic needed to be at his very best to keep his side in contention.
Despite the early one-way traffic it was the visitors who first came close to breaking the deadlock, with Robert Huth’s fierce drive cannoning back off the crossbar after Mignolet had failed to deal with Peter Crouch’s header.
Huth’s shot will have reminded the Reds not to get complacent, but following the temporary glimmer of hope for Stoke the home domination continued, and it seemed only a matter of time before the Reds had the lead.
The goal did come in the 35th minute, courtesy of a left-footed Sturridge strike which caught Begovic short-footed.
The Stoke goalkeeper had done exceptionally well to keep his side in the game up until that point, but when Jordan Henderson found Sturridge unchallenged outside the box the forward was able to get his shot away without giving his opponent any time to react.
The first half ended with a surge from Stoke that had a few home fans worried, but the Reds were able to see out the opening 45 minutes with their lead intact.
The second half started in pretty much the same vein as the first, with Liverpool fastest out of the blocks. Coutinho, Aspas and Sturridge were combining well and looked a threat every time they broke forward.
For all their dominance though it was still only a one goal lead that the Reds held, and despite their best efforts the result still hung in the balance coming into the closing exchanges of the game.
With three minutes left on the clock, their failure to score a second goal looked to have come back to haunt them, as Stoke were awarded a penalty following a handball from Daniel Agger.
The new Liverpool vice-captain could have few complaints as replays showed he clearly led with his arm, and the majority of Anfield held their breath as Jon Walters placed the ball on the spot and began his run-up.
Mignolet though was able to make himself an instant hero at Anfield, first saving the spot-kick at full stretch before keeping out the rebound with his body seconds later.
The Belgian stopper’s heroics seemed to knock the last bit of fight out of Mark Hughes’ men, and a triumphant Kop burst into song to see out the remaining minutes.
Referee Martin Atkinson blew for full time shortly after to confirm Liverpool’s first winning start to a Premier League campaign for five years.