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Sturridge secure Liverpool win

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LIVERPOOL - Daniel Sturridge showed Liverpool can flourish without Luis Suarez as the striker’s superb finish clinched a 1-0 victory over Stoke on the opening day of the new Premier League season.

Sturridge’s first half winner at Anfield was the highlight of an  enterprising display from Brendan Rodgers’s team, who showed no signs of being  affected by the absence of controversial striker Suarez.
Liverpool needed a last-minute penalty save from debutant Simon Mignolet,  who kept out Jon Walters’s spot-kick, to seal the points, but a draw would have  been extremely harsh on the hosts after a dominant performance.
It was exactly the kind of uplifting afternoon Liverpool required after a  summer spent dealing with Suarez’s attempts to engineer a move to Arsenal.
Suarez, watching from the stands as he serves a suspension for biting  Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last season, was briefly banished to train on his  own after claiming Rodgers had gone back on an agreement to sell him when the  Reds failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

He was welcomed back to the fold on Friday after reportedly apologising to  Rodgers for his behaviour.
But England forward Sturridge had enjoyed a superb finish to last season  and he picked up where he left off to show Liverpool can still progress, even  if Suarez eventually gets his wish to leave.
Stoke’s new boss Mark Hughes wasn’t even born when his club last won at  Anfield in 1959, but City should have been ahead in the opening minutes when  Mignolet, the Belgian goalkeeper signed from Sunderland to replace Pepe Reina,  made a hash of punching clear and Stoke defender Robert Huth volleyed against  the bar from 12 yards.
That sparked Liverpool into life and Sturridge, back from an ankle injury,  headed home from Steven Gerrard’s free-kick, only to see the goal correctly  ruled out for a tight offside decision.
Rodgers’s men threatened again through debutant Kolo Toure when the former  Manchester City defender powered a header against the bar.
Another quick-fire exchange of passes between Philippe Coutinho and Jordan  Henderson gave Jose Enrique a clear sight of goal, but the left-back’s shot was  well saved by Asmir Begovic.
Begovic came to Stoke’s rescue again when he denied Henderson and then  Sturridge in quick succession.
But Liverpool’s incessant pressure paid off in the 37th minute when Iago  Aspas fed Sturridge on the edge of the area and the former Chelsea striker  drove a low strike through Huth’s legs and beyond Begovic into the far corner  for the first goal of the new Premier League season.
After a shaky start, Mignolet at last showed why Rodgers paid £9 million  ($13.9 million, 10.6 million euros) for him with an acrobatic save to keep out  a Walters effort, but the Liverpool keeper needed help from a goalline  clearance by Lucas when Ryan Shawcross’s header deflected past him on the  stroke of half-time.
The Reds almost doubled their lead early in the second half when  Henderson’s shot forced a full-stretch stop from Begovic.
   And the Liverpool midfielder was frustrated again by Begovic midway through  the half when the Bosnian pushed another goalbound strike onto a post.
   Stoke were given a dramatic chance to snatch an undeserved point in the  89th minute when Liverpool defender Daniel Agger handled as he tried to clear a  Charlie Adam free-kick.
   But Mignolet came to the rescue as he plunged to his right to keep out  Walters’s spot-kick and then denied Kenwyne Jones from the rebound. -- AFP

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