The talismanic 26-year-old looked to have netted the decisive strike on his return but Liverpool striker Firmino came off the bench to score with an audacious injury-time chip over goalkeeper Danijel Subasic that raised the roof at his home ground.
GABRIEL JESUS: 5- A frustrating day for the centre-forward.
And it was the latter of that starting trio who sparked the game into life after nine minutes of prodding and probing in the Merseyside sunshine.More news: Blood test offers hope of detecting cancers before symptoms develop
Croatia responded immediately on the counter-attack.
It was the Croatians, limbering up for a tough group involving Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, who threatened first but an Ante Rebic chance was snuffed out by Thiago Silva.
Marcelo Brozović, Ivan Perišić and Miranda from Inter exchanged laughs, and Dejan Lovren shamed his former Liverpool teammate Coutinho with a brilliant Instagram caption. Yellow cards for Fernandinho, Kramaric, Perisic and Rakitic.
Then, it was Coutinho's turn for the spotlight.More news: Trump family goes on holiday, but where's Melania?
Heading this crisis committee will be Israeli superagent Pini Zahavi and his assistant Humberto Paiva, a young Brazilian football representative based in London who is a familar face to emplyees in the back offices at PSG and is believed to have been behind the complicated negotiations which released Neymar from Barcelona.
The match will mark the first time Coutinho has played at Anfield since he left Liverpool in the January transfer window, with the midfielder pushing for and then completing a move to Barcelona.
Willian saw a deflected cross-shot scrambled clear from close to the line before Paulinho had two efforts in quick succession charged down.
The substitute made an nearly immediate impact as his curling right-footed shot was plucked out of the air by Subasic and then scored the goal that swung momentum in the game.More news: China warns USA trade benefits hinge on stopping tariffs
Here are three things we noticed about Croatia from their match against Brazil.