THE game against Stoke City was a strange one for Simon Mignolet. As debuts go it was pretty eventful as the Belgian endured a difficult first half an hour in front of the Kop before going on to write his name in the headlines for the coming weekend with three brilliant saves, one a match winning penalty stop.
The save from Jon Walters in the minutes leading up to half-time was absolutely essential and I believe it went on to inspire our new goalkeeper to go on and have a strong showing in the second-half.
The early prognosis for Mignolet did not look good as he came and flapped at virtually every cross in the opening ten minutes of the game. He was almost directly responsible for Robert Huth opening the scoring early on as he flapped at a cross only for the German to volley against the crossbar.
The opening to the game was rough for Mignolet as for all our dominance and impressive play further up the pitch we looked very vulnerable every time the ball was thrown into our box.
The Belgian exacerbated this issue by looking wholly unconvincing as he came for a series of crosses only to either not get there or deal with it poorly. He was also indecisive and lacking confidence with the ball at his feet.
When we first signed Mignolet my assessment was that his shot stopping was very good (as all goalkeepers who play at that level ought to be if we’re being brutally honest) but that he would need to improve his command of the box. After three particularly top class saves in the match I think that assessment is fair and stands tall.
His shot stopping was excellent. The save to deny Walters in the dying moments of the first half was a big save because it would have been from our own mistake. It was a flying full length stop and it was superb to see.
I truly believe that it gave him wings to up his performance in the second half. Until the latter stages of the game his second half was pretty comfortable, but he was sharp enough to deal with a dipping effort from the halfway line by Charlie Adam before the penalty heroics.
As a goalkeeper myself I was absolutely delighted with the penalty stop. Jon Walters’ spot kick wasn’t the greatest but it was a good save (apparently the first penalty saved by a Liverpool goalkeeper at Anfield since Davor Suker in 1999) and the rebound stop from Kenwyne Jones was absolutely superb. He was quick to get up and made himself huge. It was a superb piece of goalkeeping.
There are going to be issues. He does need to learn to command his box better and deal with crosses. But that late save has given him and the club overall a big boost going into the new season, and one we needed after looking like all our impressive attacking work was going to be undone.