The 2013-14 Premier League season opened with a flourish as Liverpool and Stoke played out an entertaining game that would have been far higher scoring if not for some excellent saves from both goalkeepers.
Stoke City gave Liverpool an early scare as fullbacks Erik Pieters and Geoff Cameron led a breakaway, but the Dutchman could not find his American teammate with the final pass, which was cut out from a corner. The Potters came inches away from breaking the deadlock from the resultant set-piece, Simon Mignolet made a mess in coming for the ball, leaving the ball to fall for Robert Huth, who smashed the ball against the post with the goal gaping.
It was Liverpool's turn to put the wind up Stoke afterwards, though -- first Daniel Sturridge had the ball in the net from a free-kick, but was correctly judged to be offside. Then, as the hosts had a corner, Kolo Toure hit the bar with a header before Sturridge blazed the rebound over from close range.
Liverpool went close again later as Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge combined with some fine play before releasing Jose Enrique in the area, but the left-back's shot was saved at close range by Asmir Begovic before Steven Gerrard hooked a volley over the bar.
Stoke were unable to relieve the pressure, and it cost them, as Liverpool took the lead not long after. Sturridge picked up the ball outside the area and hit a low, powerful drive with his left foot that went between Huth's legs and out of the reach of Begovic. Yet the Potters almost equalised immediately, Mignolet showing his fine shot-stopping ability to keep the scores level by tipping Jonathan Walters' curling effort round the post after a loose ball had fallen to the Irishman outside the area.
After halftime, Liverpool remained on top and the hosts continued to search for a second goal to give themselves a cushion, but they found Begovic in fine form to deny them, pulling off a stunning stop to deny Sturridge after the visitors' defence were uncharacteristically lax in clearing their lines. Jordan Henderson did find a way past the Bosnian goalkeeper just afterwards, but not the woodwork as he struck the post with Liverpool looking increasingly desperate.
It would have been a sense of deja vu for Liverpool as they appeared to invite pressure with a one-goal lead, and hearts sank around the home crowd as Daniel Agger handballed in the 88th minute to hand Stoke a penalty just as they appeared to have done enough to win. Yet Mignolet stepped up to make himself the hero, saving Walters' penalty low to his right to preserve the three points.