A 37th-minute strike from Jordon Ibe handed Liverpool a 1-0 first-leg advantage over Stoke City in the League Cup semi-final between the two sides at the Britannia Stadium this evening.
However, the victory in the Potteries may have come at a cost to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who lost the services of Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries during the first half.
Without a natural centre-forward on the pitch as a result of Klopp’s decision to drop Christian Benteke, there was plenty of fluidity about the visitors in an attacking sense and it came as little surprise when they broke the deadlock.
Adam Lallana beat the Stoke offside trap to latch on to James Milner’s through ball down the right flank. From there, the England international cut the ball back for Joe Allen, only for the Welsh midfielder to mis-hit his shot. Fortunately for the travelling Reds, it fell for kindly for Ibe – Coutinho’s replacement – to power his shot into the bottom corner of Jack Butland’s net.
As the half wore on Stoke’s Austrian Marko Arnautovic spurned a headed opportunity, while up the other end Roberto Firmino was robbed of possession by Stoke centre-back Ryan Shawcross as he was about to shoot and Ibe fired wide from a narrow angle.
The second half continued in a similar vein, with Liverpool looking the more likely to score as hosting Stoke struggled to produce the free-flowing football that they had often produced in recent weeks.
The closest that they came to an equaliser was 14 minutes from time when it seemed that Joselu’s shot – which deflected off Kolo Toure – would cause problems for Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, but the Belgian goalkeeper was able to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The two sides will now play out the second leg at Anfield on January 26, with a place in the final at Wembley at stake.