Liverpool beats Stoke 1-0 with late Johnson header
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Glen Johnson scored a late header to give Liverpool a 1-0 win over Stoke on Saturday, ending the Merseyside club’s three-match losing streak in the Premier League.
Johnson’s goal came in the 85th minute after Paul Lambert’s looping header came off the crossbar. Johnson raced to the rebound and the right back headed it into goal, prompting ecstatic scenes at Anfield.
Stoke forward Bojan nearly equalized with a volley in added time, but Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s fingertips came to the rescue and the ball was diverted out for a corner.
Liverpool moved into 11th place in the league with 17 points, just ahead of Stoke, which has 15 points.
“I thought the players were absolutely incredible,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. It was “a hard-fought victory for us, but a well-deserved one, I felt.”
Rodgers had been under pressure after the team slid down the table following league losses to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Newcastle, and poor performances in the Champions League.
Rodgers caused surprise after starting the match with captain Steven Gerrard on the substitutes’ bench on the 16th anniversary of his debut for the Reds, especially since the club’s matchday program honored him on its cover. His replacement, Philippe Coutinho, failed to spark any creativity and the 34-year-old Gerrard eventually came on in the 75th.
The manager said he wasn’t aware of the occasion until just before the match and he wanted to give his skipper a rest after playing against Crystal Palace last Sunday and Ludogorets in the Champions League on Wednesday.
“Steven is at the part of his career where he’s not going to be playing in every game and every minute of every game,” Rodgers said. “He didn’t tell me it was his 16th anniversary. I felt quite bad actually when I looked at the program,” whose cover was plastered with images of Gerrard.
After a poor first half with no shots on target, both teams hunted for a goal with a series of end-to-end chances in the second interval.
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson’s 18-yard volley went just wide of the near post in the 51st, after the ball bounced off up for him when a pass from Lucas deflected off Ryan Shawcross.
Bojan’s throughball to Mame Biram Diouf in the 55th brought Mignolet off his line momentarily before retreating. Diouf tried a low shot, but it was scooped away by Mignolet’s feet. Bojan struck a post in the 61st.
“Our record here hasn’t been great,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes said. “We thought this was a real opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get a positive result.
“In the first half, Liverpool created very little. In the second half, it became more open because we were looking for a winner.”