Jurgen Klopp relieved after Liverpool get out of jail

Stoke City 1 Liverpool 2: Liverpool’s Champions League challenge is taking their players to their absolute limits — but manager Jurgen Klopp admitted he played his ‘get out of jail’ card at Stoke City.

Jurgen Klopp relieved after Liverpool get out of jail

Philippe Coutinho, some half a stone lighter after a bout of diarrhoea, climbed out of his sick bed then clambered off the bench to score the equaliser to set the Reds on their way to make it 16 points from the last 18 and cement third place.

And fellow half-time substitute Roberto Firmino, forced into a reduced role through fatigue after playing in two internationals for Brazil, plundered a scorching winner in the Potteries sunshine that was grand enough to win any game.

But if Klopp’s side owed their victory to the exploits of their lavishly talented Samba stars whose goals turned the game on its head in the 70th and 72nd minutes, then the three points were preserved by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

The 29-year-old Belgian has his critics but they were silenced by his thoroughbred performance at the bet 365 stadium.

Mignolet produced two prodigious point-blank saves to deny Stoke, the first at 1-0 down from former Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam, the second when they were 2-1 ahead from Saido Berahino.

The keeper compared his second stop to scoring a goal. It was certainly as important.

“It doesn’t happy very often that you can score a goal as a keeper, but this was similar,” said Mignolet.

“As a keeper you want to make saves at important moments to help the team out and the feeling is even better when you win after that.”

Of his block to foil Berahino, he said: “When a ball comes in like that ’s in front of goal, you have to try to make yourself big and throw yourself in front of the ball.”

Klopp hailed Mignolet’s performance. “This was a goalkeeper’s day. There’s never been a doubt Simon is a top keeper. He is how goalkeepers are: very confident.”

Coutinho was determined to make himself available. “I wasn’t feeling well but I wanted to be involved,” he said. “The manager decided not to play me because I wasn’t 100%.”

Prior to his intervention, Stoke were good value for their 44th-minute lead scored by Jonathan Walters. The 33-year-old Republic of Ireland international’s header from Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross made history as his seventh goal against Liverpool (in 13 appearances) made him the highest-scoring Stoke player versus the Reds.

By then, Marko Arnautovic had tested Mignolet from 20 yards and volleyed into the side-netting.

For the first 45 minutes Liverpool, who handed 17-year-old Ben Woodburn his first Premier League start alongside Divock Origi up front, looked every bit a side who were without their leading lights, which as well as Coutinho and Firmino also included 13-goal top scorer Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, and Jordan Henderson.

They posed no threat yet could have had a penalty when Erik Pieters appeared to foul Woodburn just inside the box.

But once Coutinho and Firmino were restored to the team, Liverpool suddenly looked a different outfit.

Such was the pressure of the red tide, it only seemed a matter of time before Stoke’s resistance was broken.

Firmino’s shot was beaten away by Lee Grant, who then tipped wide a curling effort from Coutinho before Dejan Lovren’s header hit the top of the bar. Then came the equaliser as Coutinho punished a poor clearance from ex-Liverpool right back Glen Johnson to find the bottom corner with a first-time bending shot to enter double figures for the season.

Firmino’s goal was an a belter: Georginio Wijnaldum’s chip gave Stoke’s entire back line the slip and sat up perfectly for the Brazilian to lash home an unstoppable volley from 20 yards for his 11th of the campaign.

Asked if he understood the phrase ‘got out of jail’, Klopp said: “I’m not exactly familiar, no, but I think I can work it out...yeah, I get it. I’m sure I understand with this game!”

But the German insisted neither Coutinho or Firmino could have lasted much longer than they did. “I really had no other choice, especially with Roberto or Phil. I could have started with them, or one of them, and after half an hour it was really likely that they’d have to come off.”

STOKE (4-4-2):

Grant 7; Johnson 6, Shawcross 6, Martins Indi 6, Pieters 6; Shaqiri 8, Cameron 6, Allen 6 (Adam 27, 6, Ramadan 81), Arnautovic 7; Walters 7 (Whelan 68, 6), Berahino 6.

Subs not used:

Given, Muniesa, Diouf, Crouch.

LIVERPOOL (3-5-2):

Mignolet 8; Lovren 7, Klavan 6, Matip 7; Clyne 7, Milner 7, Can 7, Wijnaldum 7, Alexander-Arnold 5 (Coutinho HT, 8); Woodburn 6 (Firmino HT, 8), Origi 7 (Sturridge 68, 6).

Subs not used:

Karius, Grugic, Moreno, Lucas. Referee: Mike Dean (The Wirral).

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