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Wonder strike from Coutinho gives Liverpool 1-0 victory at Stoke in EPL opener

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STOKE, England — Philippe Coutinho struck a superb late goal to give Liverpool a winning start to the new Premier League season with a barely-deserved 1-0 victory at Stoke on Sunday.

A drab encounter at the Britannia Stadium appeared to be drifting toward a goalless draw when the Brazilian midfielder suddenly found the net with a ferocious 25-meter shot in the 86th minute.

It was Liverpool's only serious effort of the game and, although the contest had opened up more in the second half, the home side seemed the more likely to score.

Along with a positive start to life without after his move to Manchester City, the victory also gave Liverpool a measure of revenge after being thrashed 6-1 at the same ground on the final day last season.

Rodgers is trying to build a new side after an extensive summer of recruitment and the departure of Sterling.

Liverpool started with six of the players who featured in that Britannia Stadium hammering 77 days previously but handed starts to four new signings in , , and .

Stoke, which gave debuts to former Liverpool full-back , Ibrahim Affelay and , was the more positive side, while Liverpool looked disjointed and lacked rhythm.

An effort from Stoke striker did not trouble between the Liverpool posts and a floated free kick from into the box came to nothing.

had an attempt deflected wide for Liverpool, and it was not until the 36th minute that Stoke created the first serious openings.

Van Ginkel forced to hook a deflected cross off the line and Affelay's follow-up volley was blocked by Clyne. The rebound fell to Johnson but he scooped the ball over.

A tense match became even scrappier as Adam took exception to Milner's challenge and pushed the Liverpool man over and referee Anthony Taylor needed his whistle with increasing frequency.

The game improved slightly after the break with Van Ginkel forcing a save from Mignolet and the hard-working Jordon Ibe skipping into the Stoke area only to be denied by a well-timed tackle from .

Stoke made a final push and Skrtel blocked well from Van Ginkel, and Diouf headed over from Johnson's cross, but Coutinho had the final word with a fierce shot that clipped 's gloves on the way into the net.

PHOTO: Scorer of the game's winning goal Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, centre, is hugged by teammate Alberto Moreno after the English Premier League soccer match between Stoke and Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke, England, Sunday Aug. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Scorer of the game's winning goal Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, centre, is hugged by teammate Alberto Moreno after the English Premier League soccer match between Stoke and Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke, England, Sunday Aug. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

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PHOTO: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino appaluds supporters as he walks from the pitch after the English Premier League soccer match between Stoke and Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke, England, Sunday Aug. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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