The Reds made a delightful return to winning ways to kick-off a potentially rewarding run in perfect fashion on Wednesday night.
And victory was sealed after the break by the man-of-the-moment Salah, who made a stunning impact from the bench scoring a classy brace to take his tally to 17 goals this season.
It was an important victory for Liverpool with all top-six rivals bar Tottenham also winning this midweek, and one which must provide the springboard for a consistent run.
Here’s how the media assessed an enjoyable night for the Reds.
The watching journalists felt Liverpool were far from their best, but praised the “efficiency” of the win
ESPN’s Nick Miller was among the journalists to note this, assessing the victory as “terrifically efficient”:
This will not go down as a classic Liverpool performance, like some of the brilliant, slicing victories of the season so far, but it was a terrifically efficient one.
Liverpool will play much better at points this season, but this was a victory achieved without many alarms or surprises.
The Guardian’s Stuart James echoed that point, but also assessed how the comfort of the win was “encouraging”:
It will nonetheless be encouraging for Liverpool that they looked pretty comfortable throughout against a team that set out to frustrate them.
Writing for Goal.com, Melissa Reddy labelled the win a “result to relish” as the Reds look to build momentum:
It was not a flawless performance, but a result to relish as the fixtures pile up.
Certain reporters noted an improvement in the Reds’ defending of the narrow lead before Salah struck
The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce praised Klopp’s men for “standing tall” and dealing with the pressure Stoke applied:
They had to dig deep after Sadio Mane‘s ice-cool finish had broken the deadlock. But rather than wilt under pressure like they have done of late, they stood tall and repelled Stoke’s advances.
The BBC’s Mike Henson noted how the Reds “kept their structure and their heads” to come through the testing spells:
Klopp’s side surrendered leads against Sevilla and Chelsea in their last two matches and Stoke gave the German a second half to mostly endure rather than enjoy.
Liverpool kept their structure and their heads, though, to claim a first away clean sheet of the league season.
There was a nice change in reports as Klopp was rightly praised for his shrewd rotation and subs:
Henson felt the boss took a gamble with his selection but admitted it paid off:
Klopp’s starting line-up – with his biggest goal threat left on the bench along with Philippe Coutinho – was questioned but the German was vindicated by his side achieving a good result at a difficult venue while giving Salah a rest with the festive period looming.
The Mail’s Laurie Whitwell believes Klopp’s keenness to rotate shows he has learned lessons from a costly lack of rotation last season:
It was six changes in all by Klopp and told of a manager who has learned much from last winter, when his players failed to maintain pace into the second part of the campaign.
Miller explained why rotation is a “necessity” and believes Klopp is right to use his squad to keep key players fresh:
But Klopp’s rotation policy is one born from necessity rather than some sort of philosophical choice. Liverpool have nine games from now until Jan. 1, having played seven in the past month.
The demands placed on Liverpool’s players by his ultra-energetic style mean that expecting the same players to dutifully turn out two or three times a week and produce the same level of performance simply isn’t realistic.
And Miller also feels Klopp’s decision to stockpile attacking talent has paid dividends, with heaps of offensive quality at the German’s disposal:
It’s why Liverpool have stockpiled attacking talent in the past couple of years. Salah, Solanke and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all signed in the summer to complement an already healthy number of forward-thinking players.
This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett labelled Klopp’s decision to introduce Salah against a tiring Stoke side “a masterstroke”:
But, such is the Egyptian’s form, that bringing him on for the closing stages was nothing short of a masterstroke.
Stoke were stretched and Salah—with Mane still on as well—had the pace and energy to exploit the space and initiate counter-attacks.
ESPN’s Dave Usher thought the introductions of Milner and Salah helped re-establish control of the game:
When things began to get a little bit nervy in the second half he introduced Salah and James Milner and that immediately allowed his team to regain control of the game. A good night for the German.
Meanwhile, This Is Anfield’s James Nalton praised Klopp’s “simple but effective” deployment of a physical Reds side to compete with Stoke’s directness:
His use of taller players was a simple but effective tactic, and the side were only undone once or twice, and luckily the opposition’s best chances fell to Joe Allen.
Crouch was limited to knock-downs rather than shots, and that was partly due to Liverpool’s physical core designed by Klopp.
Mo Salah was once again showered in praise for another blistering display
Salah proved he “can absolutely do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke”, wrote Reddy:
The Egypt international can absolutely do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke, with limited time, and in scorching fashion.
The Liverpool Echo’s Kristian Walsh believes the Egyptian is moving alongside “Europe’s world class talent”:
He now needs to be spoken of in exalted terms, among some of Europe’s world class talents. This is not a purple patch, nor is it a run of form; this is a player approaching his prime, tearing teams to shreds.
Suddenly, in the space of three months the Egyptian striker has become Liverpool’s new go-to man – captivating fans and eclipsing the Brazilian play-maker in the popularity stakes
Reporters also reflected on other individual performances, with praise for numerous Reds
Gomez and Chamberlain are a genuine option for Klopp, doubling up in both halves of the pitch, and even when not starting they can be a strong duo to get past when trying to close out games in future.
Mane was controversially left out of the Liverpool starting XI on Saturday against Chelsea – but he has reacted well to it.
He was handed his place in the starting XI again at Stoke and proved his worth to Klopp.
Nalton was impressed by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s physicality and tenacity:
Bullish and hard-working down the right wing, and looks to be settling into the side thanks to his second start in a row.
It was good to see a Liverpool player show a bit of fire when wound up by the opposition, and he looked like he wanted to stay on and prove a point to the opposition as well as to his manager.
Solanke showed good approach play, linked nicely with the wider midfielders at times and more than once exchanged passes with Roberto Firmino, his strike partner.
Still, he can claim an assist for Mane’s goal and his 66 minutes on the pitch were largely productive.