by Dave Usher for ESPN
When the Premier League fixture list is released in mid-June, the first thing most supporters hope for is to be at home on opening day. If the opposition is a side you would expect to beat, all the better. While Liverpool could have been handed an easier opponent than Stoke City, the game certainly represents a great opportunity for the Reds to get off to the kind of start they have not managed to make in several years.
You have to go back to a 1-0 win at Sunderland in 2008 to find Liverpool's last opening day victory, a game most notable for Rafa Benitez's baffling decision to start with the hapless Damien Plessis over Xabi Alonso. The boss eventually came to his senses and introduced "the maestro" at halftime, but it was another Spaniard, Fernando Torres, who settled the game with a late strike.
Since then the Reds haven't fared too well on opening day. The following year saw Benitez's men slip to a 2-1 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, where not even the late introduction of the "not so Divine Ponytail" Andriy Voronin could rescue a point that day. A year later Roy Hodgson took charge of his first Liverpool game as Arsenal made the trip up North to Anfield. Joe Cole was sent off on the stroke of halftime but a beauty from David N'gog looked to have secured a plucky win until a late howler from Pepe Reina gave the Gunners a point they didn't deserve. Hodgson, Cole, N'gog ... *shudders*
An eventful 12 months passed and Kenny Dalglish was back in the dugout in 2011 as Sunderland travelled down to Merseyside. Liverpool should have been out of sight by halftime, but a string of missed chances -- including a penalty that Luis Suarez launched into orbit over the Anfield Road end -- proved costly as the Black Cats equalised and held on for a point.
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