Liverpool 2 - 0 FC Midtjylland
Reds: Jota 55’, Salah (pen) 90+3’,
For the second match in a row, Jurgen Klopp appears to be running out a 4-2-3-1. The biggest shock will be the exclusion of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah. Much to FC Midtjylland’s relief, I would imagine. Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino, and Xherdan Shaqiri come in for the front three. Divock Origi makes a surprise start up top, as does veteran midfielder James Milner.
On the other side, FCM are without their first-choice keeper. Hopefully the makeshift attack can test the backup early and often.
Liverpool should be more than enough for FCM tonight. The Danish champs are good by Danish standards, but the gulf in class was readily apparent against Atalanta, and it should be tonight. A win puts Liverpool in a great position to advance.
FCM create first great chance of the night! FCM’s speedy winger Dreyer is played through, and is well onside. However, he’s forced wide and cannot quite find a finishing touch against Alisson.
Joe Gomez has been trying to play the Virgil van Dijk Big Switch, but keeps overhitting the long balls. If he could, you know, stop that, it would be great.
With 25-minutes gone, the visitors are acquitting themselves well. For now. FCM are stretched, and haven’t created much since that first chance. The Reds continue to be patient.
Oh shit. Fabinho just went down without contact. Not a good sign. Probably pulled his hamstring. Well, welcome to the Champions League Rhys Williams. The Wolves respond by immediately turning up the press; if Liverpool can play their way through it, there should be a bit more space on the break.
James Milner picks up his customary yellow, this time for a professional foul around midfield to stop a counter attack. Get in, Milly.
Not a great first half by the Reds going forward. Not a single shot on target against their backup keeper. Regardless, FCM have been stretched, and Mo, Bobby, and Sadio coming on against tired legs? Yeah, it’s probably fine. Fabinho going off injured though? Not at all fine.
Klopp makes a halftime sub, hooking Hendo for Georginio Wijnaldum. Hopefully that’s a planned sub like last week and not, you know, another injury.
Goal! Liverpool have been building pressure, and finally that damn cracked. Trent starts the move with a 1-2 at the edge of the area with Shaq. The Swiss international perfectly plays Trent in, and the right back squares it to a wide-open Diogo Jota at the back post. Great goal.
And now Mo and Sadio are coming on for Origi and Minamino. It didn’t quite come off for Divock or Taki tonight. But they put in a lot of graft, and our two star wingers will be running at very tired legs because of their hard work.
The goal has opened the game up, with the visitors in search of an equalizer. With a quarter of an hour remaining, FCM create their best chance since the first half, but the shot from inside the box flashes just wide of the post. Klopp responds by bringing Firmino on, presumably to gain a bit more control of the match. He comes on for the goalscorer, Jota.
Firmino misses a great chance to kill the game with just a few minutes remaining in regulation time. Trent picks him out all alone right in front of the penalty spot but the Brazilian’s shot blazes over the crossbar.
And then FCM nearly make Liverpool pay! Dreyer works some space in the box, and attempts an audacious chip from six yards. It hits the outside of the post and ruffles the side netting.
Penalty! Salah is played through, and brought down inside the box. It’s an easy call and Mo has a chance to end this nervy affair in stoppage time.
Goal!! Mo steps up and converts, sending the keeper the wrong way! And that should settle the matter tonight. Exhale.
Credit to the Wolves, they’ve made Liverpool work for it tonight, and there hasn’t been a moment’s rest all match. Yes, Liverpool should have been more clinical in key moments, but FCM have made them work for everything.