Philippe Coutinho didn’t need much practice to help Liverpool start its 2015-16 season with the perfect result.
Coutinho scored a stunning late goal, which gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Stoke City in the teams' season-opener in the Premier League. The Brazilian playmaker broke the deadlock in the 86th minute with a curling strike from 25 yards.
That Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was set to replace Coutinho with Danny Ings before he struck gold adds drama to his eye-popping game-winner.
After the game, Rodgers praised Coutinho and laughed about the fateful decision he didn’t have to make in the end.
“He has only come back into the fold (for preseason training) a lot later than the others,” Rodgers told Sky Sports.
“We changed his positions, he started centrally, and you obviously want to keep him on the pitch for as long as possible.
“But we felt that maybe towards the end of the game Glen (Johnson) was going forward more — and he is good at getting forward — and we were losing out defensively on that side. And you try and leave it for as long as you can, as he has that magic.
"What a goal though –- his body work to turn out Stevey Sidwell, who is a really strong player, and to get away and hit the strike at that late stage of the game, and the first game, was a wonderful, wonderful goal.”
Coutinho, Liverpool’s player of the season in 2014-15, is one of few, if any, Reds for whom turning the page quickly from last season to this term is a necessity. Coutinho’s strike is a reminder of why that’s the case.
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