Jordon Ibe’s only goal of the game gave Liverpool a slender one-goal advantage heading into the Capital One Cup semi-final second-leg later this month following their 1-0 win at Stoke City last night.
The 20-year-old substitute, whose three goals this season have all come in cup competitions, dealt the decisive blow in the 37th minute after some slick build-up play from fellow midfielders Adam Lallana and Joe Allen at the Britannia Stadium.
However the Reds, who return to Anfield on January 26 to face the Potters once more in the deciding second-leg, will feel disheartened after last night’s fixture following another string of injuries to key players.
The influential Philippe Coutinho was forced off after just 18 minutes to be replaced by eventual match winner Ibe, meanwhile centre-half Dejan Lovren also suffered a similar fate before half-time, with both men clutching their hamstrings in despair.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admitted he may have to dip into the January transfer market following yesterday’s conseuquences, one that leaves the German manager without any recognised central defenders as Lovren now lies alongside Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel in the treatment room.
However the Reds did well to restrain the attacking flair of Stoke’s star players such as Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic as their high-pressing tactics worked a treat to stun the hosts right from kick-off.
The Potters, who have recorded impressive home victories over Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United this campaign, did their best to beat Simon Mignolet between the sticks, but Glen Johnson and Joselu’s stinging efforts were well saved by the Belgium international goalkeeper.
Substitute Jon Walters then spurned Mark Hughes’ side best chance of the match deep into injury-time by flashing his shot well wide of Mignolet’s far post as Liverpool held out comfortably to become favourites to reach the League Cup final on February 28.
Fellow Premier League rivals Everton and Manchester City contest the other semi-final first-leg tie this evening at Goodison Park (20:00).