On a rain sodden Anfield August afternoon we Liverpool fans came to witness everything start again.
To watch the continuing development of Rodgers' rebuilt Liverpool and its new additions and to be at the birth of Mark Hughes' new expansive, inventive Stoke City; and it was very nearly a case of 'same old, same old'.
Stoke? Still Stoke. Love a good elbow, love a shove in the back, enjoy kicking creative players, indulge in falling over at the slightest opportunity to gain easy free kicks from gullible referees and still a distinct threat at set pieces. Not as direct as they were under the not even vaguely missed Tony Pulis, able to play a soupçon of actual football but their relegation still can't come a day too soon for me. I loathe Stoke (even with the presence of three ex-Reds in Crouch, Adam and Pennant) but I feel even more antagonistic toward Mark Hughes; this is a match made in heaven for me, if we could be rid of both by the end of the season I would be more than happy. Sorry Stoke fans, I'm sure you love your team but you're in a distinct minority on that one.
To Liverpool then, since that's what I'm here for; we came very close today to repeating our failings of last season. 26 shots, 11 of those on target, Henderson hitting the post, Henderson seeing a goal bound effort magnificently saved by Begovic (one moment of magnificence amongst many from the Stoke keeper) Toure having a goal disallowed for offside, Toure heading against the bar, plentiful efforts and one solitary goal to show for it.
In fairness, and despite what I've said above, it wasn't all one way traffic; Stoke could (and should) have scored first with Huth hitting the bar when it appeared easier to bury his shot, Lucas cleared from the goal line and Mignolet was forced into a save of some distinction low to his left from a header that had 'goal' written all over it.
More of Mignolet imminently.
Today for Liverpool was always going to be about the performance of the debutants;
Aspas was lively, a constant nuisance to the Stoke defence, continually moving, buzzing round, pecking for the ball, closing down the centre backs. There will be goals for this boy.
If Kolo Toure was bought as a squad player as we believed, as back up for a younger defender yet to be brought in, then somebody neglected to inform the player. He carries himself as though he has spent his entire life within the confines of L4. He seems convinced that he is the captain of the side, talking the back line through the game, encouraging each of his teammates individually before kick off and challenging for everything. He's a monster and could well prove to be as astute a signing for Brendan Rodgers as Gary McAllister was for Gerard Houllier.
Simon Mignolet then;
A shaky start saw him flap for a couple of crosses that he should have dealt with easily, hesitate dangerously with the ball at his feet on more than one occasion and almost gift Stoke with a goal before settling himself with the aforementioned save of distinction. His handling from this point on was utterly impeccable, calmly gathering every ball that came his way until he gave Liverpool the result in the last minute, first saving Walters' penalty and then parrying the follow up. It was the moment that Pepe Reina became Liverpool's ex-keeper and the Kop found itself a new hero.
Although if we're talking heroes the true man of the match was a player picked up for what is looking to be a bargain £8m in January. Phillipe Coutinho was once again magnificent. The boy is an absolute joy to watch, endlessly inventive, incisive and creative. He has that certain 'something else' that raises a buzz around the ground every time he has the ball, that buzz that tells you something is about to happen. Obviously Stoke's defence and midfield kicked him the length of the pitch. Obviously Martin Atkinson did absolutely nothing about it. Coutinho had better get used to this treatment, he's going to get a lot of it this season.
And yes, we celebrated at the end. We celebrated wildly. We celebrated the penalty save and we celebrated the win, a win that should have been by a far greater margin but a win that we would not have gained last season. A year ago we would have been talking about two points thrown away and the heroics of Asimir Begovic.
We're not, we're talking about three points gained against a team that we generally struggle to break down and the wonder of Simon Mignolet, the strength of Kolo Toure and the utter genius of Phillippe Coutinho.
It's a start.