Huddersfield 0 - 1 Liverpool
The final whistle blows and the chorus of exhaling can be heard in the cliches you hear. “Not pretty!” Someone says. “Far from their best, weren’t they?” Another one asks. “Not good, but lucky,” was the last one I heard.
Sometimes being not good—and a little lucky—is good enough.
I suppose it was always going to be a less than ideal evening at John Smith’s Stadium, with the mild injury situation Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool found themselves in after the international break returned some players in varying conditions. But, you probably wouldn’t have been surprised to see a changed side handle Huddersfield pretty comfortably. Fair play to The Terriers, because comfortable was the antonym of tonight’s match.
Klopp decided to make 3 changes from his team that drew Manchester City 13 days ago. Shaqiri, Sturridge, and Lallana came in for Firmino, Mane, and Wijnaldum. Both Sturridge and Lallana seeing their first starts of the season, and that showed at times.
The first half started very well for the Reds, I thought. Huddersfield were content to let Liverpool have the ball, and Liverpool were content to have the ball. Liverpool finally found their breakthrough in the 24th minute when Xherdan Shaqiri found a streaking Mo Salah in the box with a beautifully weighted through ball, with Salah gracefully finishing it with his weaker right foot.
Oddly enough, that’s about the time when things started going in an unexpected direction. It’s almost like Huddersfield were waiting and wanting for Liverpool to score. The rest of the first half was incredibly exciting, mostly because Liverpool played worse than expected and Huddersfield played better than expected.
In order to be successful, you have to get lucky. This isn’t just true in football, but in all of society. Liverpool were lucky to enter the half time break with a 1-0 lead. Huddersfield had a few decent looks, but their biggest chance surely would’ve come from the penalty that wasn’t called on James Milner when he handled the ball in the penalty area. I’m usually used to complaining about Michael Oliver screwing over Liverpool, but tonight he gave them a gift. A broken clock is right twice a day, after all.
The first half of the second half was a much needed calm reprieve for the Reds. Gini Wijnaldum subbed on for Jordan Henderson, both as a calming presence for Liverpool and because Henderson was carrying a bit of a knock. The Reds were able to find themselves on the break multiple times in the second half, only to have their attackers make errant passes and bad decisions time and time again. Mo Salah must’ve ended a darting run in behind with an exasperated sign and looking towards the heavens in frustration a dozen times, it felt.
But, where the attack faltered in the second half, the defense rose to the occasion. Each of the back five found themselves coming out with much needed answers when questions were asked of them. Alisson made the one save he had to make. Lovren was as physical as the Big Dog has ever been when he needed to be. Robertson, who could’ve huffed and puffed in frustration as his offensive positioning was endlessly unrewarded, found himself sprinting back time and time again to cover the wing. van Dijk cleared away anything and everything that came into the box, even if it meant getting elbowed in the head. And lastly, Joe Gomez found himself being the best defender on the field that he shared with the most expensive center back ever.
Don’t misunderstand me. Huddersfield should’ve scored at least once tonight. It’s a shame that they’ve not scored in seven (!) home matches in the league. Liverpool didn’t deserve those three points, but they earned them. That’s the kind of victory a title contender can build upon.
Liverpool were not good tonight. They were far from it, actually. But, you know what? If that’s the worst that Liverpool play all season, I suspect a happy spring for the Reds.
Up The Gnarly Paradoxical Reds.