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Published: 09:42 | 6/1/16

Advantage Reds after Ibe strike

Liverpool will take a crucial advantage into the second leg of the Capital One League Cup semi-final in three weeks times after beating Stoke 1-0 in the first leg at the Britannia Stadium.

Substitute Jordon Ibe scored the only goal of the game eight minutes before the break as he converted James Milner's cross to give Jurgen Klopp's side a deserved victory as Stoke failed to fire on the night.

Both teams were looking to bounce back from defeats at the weekend, with the Capital One League Cup offering the best prospect of silverware for both clubs this season.

Mark Hughes named an unchanged side from the team that lost to West Brom at The Hawthorns on Saturday following Geoff Cameron's successful appeal against the red card he received in the 2-1 defeat, while Reds boss Jurgen Klopp brought in Kolo Toure, Joe Allen and Adam Lallana for Mamadou Sakho, Jordon Ibe and Christian Benteke from the team that started the 2-0 loss at West Ham.

The home side started very tentatively with goalkeeper Jack Butland forced into an early save from Roberto Firmino following a loose pass from Erik Pieters.

The Potters defence also struggled to deal with dangerous crosses from Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho as Liverpool continued to press.

Butland then had to produce a fine diving save to keep out Adam Lallana's shot, but the visitors were dealt a huge blow as Coutinho limped off with a hamstring injury after just 18 minutes, with Ibe coming in to replace the influential midfielder.

Stoke could have been ahead on 26 minutes when their first corner of the game saw the ball reach the unmarked Bojan at the far post, but the former Barcelona starlet missed his kick and the danger was cleared.

At the other end, Ibe latched onto Lallana's header but shot straight at Butland from 15 yards.

But Liverpool's injury concerns deepened as defender Dejan Lovren was forced off just after the half hour mark, with James Milner coming off the bench.

The England international, returning after missing four games through injury, was almost immediately influential as he crossed for Ibe to put Liverpool ahead after Joe Allen had inadvertently diverted the ball into his path.

Stoke almost replied within seconds, but Marko Arnautovic was unable to guide Glen Johnson's cross onto the target.

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet then kept out a fierce Johnson effort on the stroke of half-time to ensure that the visitors deservedly went in a goal to the good at the break.

Republic of Ireland international Jonathan Walters was introduced for Geoff Cameron on the restart as Mark Hughes looked to increase his attacking options.

The home side had a good shout for a penalty turned down on 50 minutes as Moreno appeared to impede Glenn Whelan in the box as the midfielder prepared to shoot.

Firmino shot narrowly wide and Milner had a shot cleared off before Arnautovic failed to make the best of a good opportunity after latching onto a long kick-out and getting between two defenders, but a heavy touch allowed Mignolet to collect.

At the other end, Butland was lucky to avoid catastrophe as his loose clearance rebounded goalward off the incoming Firmino before being grabbed out of the air by the grateful goalkeeper.

Kolo Toure then made a timely interception ten minutes from the end to cut out Xherdan Shaqiri's cross with three Stoke players waiting to pounce in the penalty area.

Stoke continued to press and Walters missed a glorious chance to level the tie as he shot wide from a good position deep into injury time as Liverpool held on to take a crucial advantage into the second leg in three weeks time.

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