Premier League: I came close to hauling off star Coutinho, says Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers

Ross McLean
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Philippe Coutinho (left) gave Liverpool a winning start to the new Premier League season (Source: Getty)
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers admitted that he was moments from substituting match-winner Philippe Coutinho before his stunning late strike ensured the Reds started the new season with a win.
A low-key affair looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Brazil playmaker Coutinho unleashed a thunderous 30-yard effort which flew beyond Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland with only four minutes remaining.
“How close was I to taking him off? Very,” said Rodgers. “I can’t profess to be a genius. Danny Ings was going to come on but I’m happy Coutinho scored and stayed on.
“You want to keep him on the pitch as long as you can but we felt that maybe towards the end of the game Glen [Johnson] was getting forward more and he [Coutinho] was getting forward with Glen and maybe we were losing a bit defensively.
“You try to leave it [the substitution] as long as you can because he has that magic. But what a goal. To get away and hit the strike at that stage of the game was wonderful.”
Victory for Liverpool also avenged the 6-1 humiliation they suffered at the hands of Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of last season – the club’s heaviest defeat since 1963.
“I always felt last season’s result at Stoke was a one-off,” added Rodgers. “It was a poor day and it was important for us to come here and get a result. The players can put that behind them now and focus on moving forward.”
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, meanwhile, insisted his side’s performance proved that the Potters can be a match for teams like Liverpool this season.
“Liverpool have invested a lot of money this summer but I did not see £80m worth of difference between the teams,” said Hughes. “We are at a good level without going into the transfer market too much.
“I do not think either team deserved the win, a draw would have been a fair result. We will get stronger and be more creative. In terms of the performance, I am quietly confident we can go on from this point.”

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