High-scoring, high-octane stuff at Anfield tonight, as Jürgen Klopp’s men defeat Jesse Marsch’s exciting upstarts 4-3 after earning, then surrendering a three-goal lead. Two modern, aggressive sides duked it out, and in the end, as is often the case, the team with the talent advantage edged it.
Join us as we try and separate narrative from reality of the matchup and how it all went down in the end.
Winners and Losers
Neutrals: Despite the teams only generating a total of 20 shots between them, this was an all-action performance where both sides were willing to commit men forward on every possession. Fans with no rooting interest would have been hard pressed to find a more entertaining game of football in the Champions League this week.
The Front Three: A goal for Sadio Mane, a brace for Mohamed Salah, and a pair of assists for Roberto Firmino. All in all a solid night’s work for the Reds trio, who have continued their remarkable two-plus year stretch of consistent production, and who have now contributed 16 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season. Depth may not be great — or even existent — up top for the Reds this year, but there are few, if any, attacking line-ups that can match the output of Liverpool’s tremendous three.
Defending: Joe Gomez won six out of six tackles on the night. That may sound impressive, but Liverpool central defenders generally keep that number well under two, and the fact that the 22-year old was forced to commit to that many tackles over the course of the match suggests an inability to stop the ball from reaching the opposing strikers in space.
Similarly, Andrew Robertson scoring is very nice, and it was a tremendously well-worked goal, but the fullback seemed off the pace for long stretches of the night, particularly in possession, where he misplaced nearly 20 passes. His partner Trent Alexander-Arnold similarly contributed a gorgeous assist, and was equally wasteful in possession. Virgil van Dijk won everything in the air, but sold out uncharacteristically hard on an attempted block for Hwang Hee-Chan’s goal.
Overall, an extremely uneven performance from a backline that has drawn some criticism this season for not being as steadfast as last year. It remains to be seen if it is merely a temporary adaptation to new tactical tweaks, but
The Narrative: Oh can you even imagine the drafts of hack journalists across the world had the visitors held on for the draw, or worse yet, gone on to win? Well, you don’t have to, because we have Twitter, and for those of you fortunate enough to have avoided that wretched place, we can report that the puns were even worse than you imagined. We had Istanburg. We had Istan Red Bull, for pity’s sake!
Liverpool are not the underdogs anymore. They are one of the consensus two best teams on the planet, which means that their demise is what the rest of football fandom wants, preferably in a manner that can be ironically tied to one of the club’s former successes. They yearn for it, and terrible puns are merely one of the weapons in their arsenal.
Thank heavens for Salah.
Credit to the Opposition
Absolutely. RB came to Anfield looking to exactly what they do to everybody else: run hard, press aggressively, take risks, and counter ruthlessly. They were helped by some pitiable defending and some outrageous finishing, but in the end, they came agonizingly close to besting the Reds in their own backyard, a feat that is bordering on mythical these days. Jesse Marsch and his young charges are fun and exciting in all the right ways, and with Napoli stumbling away to Genk, could well be in with a shout at qualifying for the knockout stages this year.
What Happens Next
Just one more game to go before the international break hits, and it’s the return of Brendan Rodgers to Anfield, his first visit to his old ground since getting the sack back in 2015. Rodgers’ Leicester sit in third place in the Premier League, seven points behind the Reds, and will undoubtedly be looking to fortify their shot at breaking into the top six, while Jürgen Klopp will have his sights set on continuing the club’s winning run and maintaining the distance down to Manchester City before players leave for their international fixtures.