Stoke 0-1 Liverpool
Jordon Ibe came off the bench to drive home the winner as Liverpool took a big step towards reaching the League Cup final with a 1-0 victory at Stoke City in the first leg of their last-four tie.
Ibe was summoned into the action early and the winger fired home left-footed in the first half as Juergen Klopp's side grabbed a narrow but potentially priceless advantage ahead of the return leg on 26 January.
Liverpool's hopes of a record-extending ninth League Cup title were given a stern examination in the second half as Stoke piled forward in search of an equaliser.
However, a makeshift defence featuring Lucas Leiva and Kolo Toure stood firm.
The prize on offer is a place in the final against Manchester City or Everton who play the first leg of their semi-final at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
Klopp has bemoaned his side's slow starts in several games this season, but would not have been complaining as the visitors tore out of the traps, pinning Stoke back in their own half.
The German would have been more concerned by yet more injury woe as Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren succumbed to hamstring problems in a high-paced first half, while Toure was limping at the finish.
The eight-times winners were sharp and incisive although they again looked to be lacking a killer instinct in front of goal in the early stages.
It was substitute Ibe who broke the deadlock for the visitors, putting the finishing touch to a swift counter attack after 37 minutes.
Adam Lallana beat the offside trap down the right flank and squared for Joe Allen, whose scuffed shot fell into the path of Ibe who controlled the ball neatly before dispatching his left-footed shot low into the net.
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Ryan Shawcross, but Stoke did finish the half with their best two chances as Marko Arnautovic headed wide and former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson drew a good save from Simon Mignolet.
Stoke brought on Ireland striker Jonathan Walters for the second half and piled men forward but created few chances from a sustained period of pressure, until the substitute pulled an effort wide in stoppage time.
At the other end, Liverpool had penalty appeals turned down when Allen and Nathaniel Clyne were barged over in the box, while Ibe hit the side netting.