A Daniel Sturridge first-half winner was all Liverpool needed to overwhelm Stoke City 90 days after ‘The Kops’ last played a competitive game in the first English Premier League (EPL) match of the 2013/14 season.
The Merseyside club got off well in front of a sellout crowd of supporters chanting the “You’ll Never Work Alone’ rendition, but it was Stoke’s Robert Huth that tested the home team first, smashing a glorious opportunity from a corner, 16 yards from goal against the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Gerrard centres onto Sturridge’s head from a set-piece and the England international headed past Asmir Begovic only for the linesman to signal offside and disallow the goal.
Liverpool dominated the game from the unset as their new signing Kolo Toure only had the woodwork to blame in the 13th minute, thumping a header from a Gerrard corner against the cross bar with Begovic well beaten, Sturridge smacked the rebound over.
Liverpool looked a lot more confident with some promising early inter-play from the trio of new boys, Iago Aspas and Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge in the attack for over 25 minutes.
Summer recruit Simon Mignolet had some very dodgy moments early into the game, while Begovic was busy stopping first, a Jose Enrique’s effort from close range a minute to the half hour mark and a Jordan Henderson goal-bound shot in the 34th minute.
But the Bosnian goalkeeper couldn’t stop Sturridge from handing the home team a deserved lead in the 37th minute, when the striker let fly with a skidding shot that zipped through Huth’s legs beyond Begovic’s desperate dive.
The travelling fans were almost gifted an immediate response when a Jon Walters’s first-time shot outside the Liverpool area, which was headed for bottom corner of goal, was clawed to safety by Liverpool’s Belgian keeper, Mignolet.
Lucas cleared the ball of the line after another episode of pinball from a wrongly-awarded Stoke City corner at the dead of the interval to ensure Liverpool proceeds into the second period with a one-goal advantage.
The Reds came close to scoring a second goal within minutes of the second-half kicking off through Coutinho, who tried curling an effort around Begovic, but scaled wide.
Begovic denied Liverpool a flurry of chances but failed to curtail a 64th minute Henderson curling strike which bounced off the inside of the post despite looking like a certain goal.
Gerrard smashed in a dream of a free-kick toward the top right corner from 30-yards in the 79th minute only to be clawed away from goal by the impressive Begovic.
Former Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam tried to score from the half-way line in the 82nd minute, after spotting the Reds keeper off his line, but Mignolet recovered to tip it over.
Stoke’s big chance to steal a point came on the 88 minute, after Daniel Agger handled a Charlie Adam delivery for referee Martin Atkinson to point to the spot.
Who else but Jon Walter scuffed his shot as Mignolet guessed right and dived towards the direction of the ball to keep it out and immediately got up to disallow a Kewin Jones’ follow-up.
The referee decided not to issue out any card when Stephen N’Zonzi and Coutinho clashed towards the end of the proceeding as Mignolet surprisingly emerged the hero of the day.