ANFIELD, LIVERPOOL — Liverpool snatched three points against Stoke City with a late winner via an extremely unlikely source. Glen Johnson bravely stooped to head in Rickie Lambert's header after it had rebounded off the bar with five minutes to go.
Brendan Rodgers' side picked up their first Premier League win since another dramatic late winner gave them three points at QPR in mid-October.
The win moves The Reds above Stoke in the table, up to 11th place.
For long periods, though, it looked as though this match was set to end as a third 0-0 draw between the two sides at Anfield in four years. Johnson's goal saved the bore draw, but it's now two goals in four games between these two sides at Anfield.
The first half especially was a poor display, epitomising two mid-table sides—with Stoke entering the match a place and a point ahead of Rodgers.
The biggest talking point instead surrounded the manager's team selection: Rodgers finally rested Steven Gerrard after the captain had played two 90-minute games in the last seven days. It was the first Premier League or Champions League game the captain had missed this season.
The view on Gerrard's exclusion was pretty unanimously in favour, but the inclusion of Johnson in the side was unanimously opposed by supporters.
The former England full-back had operated at left-back for the defeat at Crystal Palace and draw in Bulgaria in midweek. However, he switched to right-back vs. Stoke, with Jose Enrique replacing Javier Manquillo and playing on the left.
Liverpool's £12 million left-back, Alberto Moreno, was an unused sub for a third consecutive game, named among £87 million of summer signings on Rodgers' bench.
Players I'd rather see at Left Back for LFC than Glen Johnson right now: Moreno, Flanagan, Enrique, Brad Smith and Alan Kennedy— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) November 26, 2014
While the 30-year-old will take the headlines for all the right reasons, Johnson's performance before the goal was far from admirable.
His third appearance of the week was much like the previous two—disappointing. The goal, his first since October 2012, only masks his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
How Johnson has found himself back as a regular in Rodgers' side is baffling, and perhaps had Jon Flanagan not been sidelined all season, then Johnson wouldn't be so lucky.
With his contract up at the end of the season, Rodgers would be better phasing him out of the team completely once Flanagan returns.
Alas, without Flanagan, Rodgers has turned to Johnson's experience, with Javier Manquillo only 20 and having already played twice as many games this season as he did for Atletico Madrid last season.
The most depressing part for a Liverpool supporter is that arguably the squad's best right-back, Andre Wisdom, is currently out on loan at West Brom.
Long before Johnson's goal, he had a more Johnson-like moment in the first half. Receiving the ball on the edge of his own box, he looked up, couldn't play a pass out and instead half-heartedly attempted to take on the Stoke attacker. It was a lazy attempt to beat his man, and Johnson was easily dispossessed.
Glen Johnson at his best. https://t.co/h5DGESGR8h— Aakriti Mehrotra (@Aakriti1) November 29, 2014
Great piece of Johnson from Glen Johnson, well done Glen.— Jack Lusby (@LusbyLatest) November 29, 2014
It was a moment Liverpool fans are beginning to get used to, similar to his lazy defending at Palace last week.
Shocking from Johnson, no motivation or effort. https://t.co/hKEYTFqx3U— Judas (@LFC_kopites96) November 24, 2014
Such is Johnson's predictability and poor play that a checklist of Johnson moments was shared on social media pre-match, citing his trademark cutting inside and shooting when an opportunity isn't there, usually leading to counter-attacks against Liverpool.
Glen Johnson checklist you can all use for today's game. pic.twitter.com/KoLv1g2s5r— Jack (@JackR_88) November 29, 2014
For a player known for his attacking capabilities, Johnson has just eight assists and three goals in the last three Premier League seasons.
Johnson deserves to be praised for his goal, but overall, he is still lucky to be such a regular fixture in the Liverpool side. Once Flanagan returns, Johnson may not find it so easy to keep his place.