Article continues below
Article continues below
Liverpool drew first blood in their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Stoke where a resilient performance was capped by Jordon Ibe's first-half winner.
An angry Jurgen Klopp demanded his players give more after a lacklustre 2-0 defeat at West Ham on Saturday and they duly obliged by putting their bodies on the line - at considerable expense.
They lost playmaker Philippe Coutinho and defender Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries inside 35 minutes and their only fit centre-back - Mamadou Sakho missed the game with a minor knee problem - Kolo Toure gingerly limped off at full-time holding the back of his thigh.
The only upside of those injuries was the early introduction of Ibe, who injected pace down the left and ultimately provided the only goal.
Liverpool's current tally of 22 goals in 20 league matches is the lowest in their history and their starting line-up, with Christian Benteke dropped, had just nine to their credit this season - Stoke's Marko Arnautovic started with seven to himself.
Klopp's call for a response after a woeful weekend display was heeded from the off with Roberto Firmino, playing as a nominal number nine instead of Benteke, testing Jack Butland after just 36 seconds.
It was virtually one-way traffic in the opening half-hour as Stoke's footballing front four of Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Arnautovic hardly got a kick and even when they did Bojan completely fluffed his shot when the unmarked Shaqiri cut a low corner back to him.
By then Liverpool had already lost Coutinho to a hamstring injury and when Lovren went off as well it meant the Reds had six players either with, or recovering from, a similar problem - in addition to Jordan Henderson (heel), Danny Ings, Joe Gomez (both long-term knee ligaments) and Sakho on the sidelines.
But just as they appeared to be losing their momentum, Ibe struck at the opportune moment.
Joe Allen appeared to have mis-hit a shot from Adam Lallana's 37th-minute cross but on second inspection the Wales midfielder had opened up his body shape to divert the ball on to Ibe who fired home at the far post.
Arnautovic headed wide before Simon Mignolet saved from former team-mate Glen Johnson at a corner and the half-time introduction of forward Jon Walters for midfielder Geoff Cameron gave Liverpool's makeshift central defensive pair of Toure and midfielder Lucas Leiva much more to think about.
Alberto Moreno's tackle on Glenn Whelan could have resulted in a penalty - as could the Stoke midfielder's challenge on Allen at the other end - before Firmino almost inadvertently made the match safe when Butland's blasted clearance rebounded into the goalkeeper's hands and fortunately not over his head while Stoke's greatest threat came from substitute Joselu's deflected shot which Mignolet tipped over.
Walters dragged a shot wide with the last kick of the match but Stoke are far from out of the tie as they head to Anfield knowing that is where Liverpool are often more vulnerable.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Wow. Three hammys. Any fitness coaches get your cv's in the post. Liverpool FC, Melwood..." - Joey Barton
Jack Butland: 6
Glen Johnson: 6
Ryan Shawcross: 7
Philipp Wollscheid: 6
Erik Pieters: 6
Glenn Whelan: 6
Geoff Cameron: 5
Xherdan Shaqiri: 6
Ibrahim Afellay: 6
Marko Arnautovic: 6
Bojan Krkic: 5
Jonathan Walters (on for Cameron, 46): 6
Joselu (on for Bojan, 69): 5
Peter Crouch (on for Shaqiri, 83): 5
Simon Mignolet: 6
Nathaniel Clyne: 6
Kolo Toure: 6
Dejan Lovren: 5
Alberto Moreno: 6
Emre Can: 7
Lucas Leiva: 6
Joe Allen: 7
Adam Lallana: 6
Philippe Coutinho: 5
Roberto Firmino: 6
Jordon Ibe (on for Coutinho, 18): 7
James Milner (on for Lovren, 34): 6
Christian Benteke (on for Allen 79): 5
Emre Can: It was a close-run thing with Joe Allen, but the Germany international just edged it with a controlling, composed performance in midfield where he provided some much-needed leadership.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Joe Allen's deft pass for Ibe's goal. There was some debate whether it was a mis-hit shot, but the midfielder definitely meant his lay-off.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Jurgen Klopp had to make two early changes after more injuries to his already-depleted squad, but even dropping midfielder Lucas Leiva into central defence worked. He had demanded a performance from his players and he appeared to enjoy their response. Mark Hughes cut a forlorn figure as the Stoke boss stood in the rain getting drenched without a coat. Made three positive substitutions, but none came off and none of his flair players put in a performance.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The lack of goals, which is probably not surprising for two of the Premier League's least prolific sides. The game in the second half was more open than the scoreline suggests.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Exeter v Liverpool (FA Cup, Friday January 8)
Doncaster v Stoke (FA Cup, Saturday, January 9)
Klopp was impressed with his side's performance, but bemoaned the loss of two more players, Coutinho and Lovren, to potentially serious hamstring injuries.
He said on Sky Sports 1: "I am absolutely proud of the performance of my team tonight. They were from the first second of the game perfect reaction from the last game.
"But we had for sure two bad, I think, injuries and that's why I'm not only lucky tonight."
Asked if they would be long-term injuries, the German added: "I don't know, but when two players go out, you watch longer British football than myself so you know what it means usually."
Klopp added: "In our situation with now three injured centre-halves and the only fit one (Toure) got a cramp in the last minute, that's not the most funny thing in the world."
Ibe admitted he thought Allen's pass which set up his goal was in fact an attempted shot.
"I think he was trying to get the shot off, but it was good that we got the goal," he said.