Simon Mignolet and Daniel Sturridge make opening day difference for LFC
Simon Mignolet became an instant Liverpool FC hero as his late penalty save ensured they began their Premier League campaign with a win over Stoke City.
Daniel Sturridge struck in the 37th minute with a long-range daisy cutter before Brendan Rodgers' side wasted a host of chances to put the game to bed, with visiting 'keeper Asmir Begovic superb.
But Reds shot-stopper Mignolet, who looked nervous early on, saved Jon Walters' spot kick and Kenwyne Jones's follow up to secure Liverpool's first opening-day win at Anfield since 2011, after Daniel Agger was penalised for handball after 88 minutes.
Rodgers' first Premier starting line-up of the season contained Sturridge, deemed fit enough after his ankle injury, with league debuts for summer signings Mignolet, Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas. Jordan Henderson was preferred to Joe Allen in midfield.
Stoke, under new manager Mark Hughes, started with former red Peter Crouch as their lone frontman with two other ex-Liverpool men, Charlie Adam and Jermaine Pennant, among their substitutes.
It was the visitors who had the game's first real chance eight minutes in. Mignolet was beaten to Glenn Whelan's deep cross by Crouch and the ball dropped for Robert Huth, who crashed a volley against the crossbar from 14 yards.
Sturridge had the ball in the net soon after, heading in Steven Gerrard's free kick, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Toure then smashed a header against the bar from a Gerrard corner with Sturridge blazing the rebound over.
Aspas has his first sight of goal on 20 minutes, but his instinctive prod from Coutinho's pass was easy for Begovic.
Begovic was alert again on 29 minutes, saving at the feet of Jose Enrique after a lovely one-two with Aspas had opened Stoke up and the Bosnian 'keeper made another save to keep out a tentative Henderson on 34 minutes after Coutinho's excellent pass.
It was one-way traffic as the half wore on.
Begovic kept out Sturridge's fierce strike at the near post, but was powerless when on 37 minutes the striker collected Aspas' square pass and arrowed a 20-yard strike inside his bottom left-hand corner, the ball travelling through Huth's legs en route.
The Reds were grateful to Mignolet soon after as he flew to his left to keep out Jon Walters' 20-yard strike, whilst Lucas cleared off the line from Ryan Shawcross at the end of a breathless half.
After the break, Coutinho curled just wide after bursting on to a Sturridge flick and Begovic made a fine one-handed save to keep out Henderson's left-footed effort.
Begovic, in inspired form, kept out another Sturridge effort on 61 minutes with Aspas heading the subsequent corner wide.
Aspas was in the thick of it again soon after, teeing up Henderson who cracked a fierce first-time effort against the inside of the far post from 16 yards.
Rodgers replaced Aspas with Raheem Sterling 18 minutes from time as Sturridge sent another long-ranger off target.
Begovic, comfortably the man of the match, made another fine save to keep out Gerrard's 30-yard free kick, whilst Glen Johnson was unable to force home after Agger's header had dropped to him at the back post.
Adam, on as a substitute, tried to catch Mignolet out from the halfway line late on, forcing the Belgian to scramble behind for a corner.
Stoke had offered little by way of an attacking threat, but were given a chance to snatch a point two minutes from time as Agger was penalised for handball in the box.
Mignolet though ensured he ended his debut a hero, plunging to his right to keep out Walters' penalty and then making a fine stop to keep out Kenwyne Jones' follow up.
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Mignolet, Johnson, Toure, Agger, Jose Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Aspas (Sterling 72), Sturridge. Substitutes: Jones, Wisdom, Allen, Alberto, Ibe, Borini
Goals: Sturridge (37)
STOKE CITY (4-5-1): Begovic, Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Pieters, Wilson, Whelan (Adam 63), N'Zonzi, Walters, Etherington (Pennant 63), Crouch (Jones 81). Substitutes: Sorensen, Muniesa, Wilkinson, Jerome
Referee: Martin Atkinson