Divock Origi came off the bench to score twice as Liverpool beat Stoke City 4-1 at Anfield on Sunday for their biggest home win this season.
Victory saw the Reds leapfrog the Potters into eighth place in the Premier League table.
Origi had been on the pitch less than five minutes after replacing Sheyi Ojo at half-time when he scored his second goal in as many games, nodding home James Milner’s cross in front of the Kop.
The Belgian got a fortuitous second goal, his cross going directly into the net as Jurgen Klopp’s side recorded only their second league win on home turf in 2016, good preparation for the second leg of their Europa League tie against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday.
Defeat left Stoke still searching for their first league win at Anfield since 1959.
Origi’s double gave the scoreline a sheen that was not there in the first half, with both teams guilty of some sloppy play with misplaced passes allied to a lack of composure.
But Liverpool were by far the better team after the break.
Nothing of note had happened before Liverpool took the lead in the eighth minute when Alberto Moreno capitalised on Stoke disorganisation to fire home.
Stoke levelled in the 22nd minute when Bojan Krkic headed in Xherdan Shaqiri’s left-wing cross for the Potters’ first league goal at Anfield in 33 years.
The Reds regained the lead 10 minutes later when Daniel Sturridge nodded home a cross from Ojo, who was making his first Premier League start, before Origi’s double intervention.
While Liverpool’s cup form has been impressive, both domestically and in Europe, their league campaign has been patchy, especially at home with just five wins all season before Sunday’s match.
– Wholesale changes –
With Emre Can starting a two-match suspension, and little time to recover from the midweek 1-1 draw in Dortmund against his former club, Klopp made wholesale changes.
Kevin Stewart came into central midfield to also make his first Premier League start, alongside Joe Allen who replaced Jordan Henderson, whose season was ended by a knee ligament injury in Dortmund.
After an uneventful opening, the Reds went ahead.
With the Potters disputing the award of a free-kick, Milner slid the ball to Moreno in space outside the box and he had time to steady himself, look up and fire a left-footed drive across Jakob Haugaard and into the net for his first goal in 65 matches.
Peter Crouch thought he had equalised but his header was correctly ruled out for offside.
Stoke though drew level in the 22nd minute when Shaqiri, back from injury, floated in a free-kick which was met by Bojan, who had got in front of the defence, and he glanced home his seventh goal of the campaign.
Sturridge then restored the lead from Ojo’s cross when he nodded home at the far post, but Liverpool continued to make life hard for themselves in defence and they could only watch as Ryan Shawcross headed the ball wide from Shaqiri’s left-wing cross with Simon Mignolet rooted to the spot, the keeper then beating out Gianelli Imbula’s drive.
Origi replaced Ojo at half-time and quickly gave the hosts a cushion with a simple header from Milner’s cross.
Mignolet tipped over Geoff Cameron’s effort and Haugaard had to be quick to get down to his left to beat away Roberto Firmino’s low shot, before Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel headed wide as the game opened up.
Origi then got his second goal after 64 minutes to put the game out of Stoke’s reach.