It was perhaps messier than some purists would have wanted, with a blown offside trap allowing the visitors to pull one back, a goalkeeping mistake forcing a ludicrous goal-line clearance, and the biggest chance — and a wonderful bit of play — you’ve seen this season go to waste, but in the end, the Reds more than did the job, smacking a game but inevitably overmatched Toulouse side 5-1, as they take a commanding lead in Group E of the UEFA Europa League.
Below, then, we take a look at some of the winners and losers on the night.
The Gravy Train: He’s been showing promise just about every time he’s stepped on the pitch for the Reds this season, Ryan Gravenberch — making it obvious why he was attracting so much attention and completely incomprehensible why Bayern were willing to let him go so cheap so early — but tonight was the Dutchman’s first truly complete performances.
Putting up four shots, three key passes, three successful tackles from three attempts, three successful dribbles from three attempts, two interceptions, a 96% pass completion rate and a goal — all in less than 70 minutes, by the way — the 21-year old led from the front, ran his legs off, and got exactly what he deserved, a score and a standing ovation.
It’s still early days, of course, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to describe Ryan Gravenberch as anything other than yet one more blinder played by the recruitment team, and given the age profile and talent surrounding the young man currently, it’s going to be incredibly exciting watching this team grow together over the coming years.
Chaos Lovers: Just when you think he’s turned the corner, taking a touch before battering a left-footed effort into the roof of the net for his opener, then beating the last man and rounding the keeper to slot the coolest of seconds into an open net, Darwin Núñez goes ahead and smacks the ball against the post instead. The man is simply a baffling specimen.
To be fair to the Uruguayan, his miss did lead to the Reds’ fourth goal, and if anything, it exemplified the entirety of the game in a single moment, chaotic, frenetic and utterly unpredictable as it was.
The Reds are a high-powered offense that might just blow the doors off most teams they face this season, and as long as the margins are as wide as they were tonight, we can live with, and perhaps even embrace, the chaos.
Yute Development: The Luke Chambers got his first ever start in Red tonight — having previously featured as an injury time substitute in the EFL Cup win over Leicester earlier this season — while Callum Scanlon and James McConnell were handed their first appearances for the club, coming on in the 67th and 89th minute, respectively.
With Ben Doak already appearing on three occasions this season, Stefan Bajcetic only injury recovery away from being in the first team picture, and Jarell Quansah featuring for the sixth time this campaign, there is little doubt something serious is brewing in the Liverpool youth ranks.
Doing the Job: With a five point gap opened up already, Liverpool need only one win from their last three games to ensure qualification to the knockout stages of the tournament. Jürgen Klopp will undoubtedly want to 1) secure a first place finish, specifically, and 2) get that done as soon as possible, so expect the Reds to go with a strong team when they travel to France on November 9th, but given that it looks like every domestic competition might be in play this season, not having to scramble until the final day of the group stages is preferable to the alternative.
Haters: I dunno, fans of other clubs, maybe? The Reds are good. Real good. Long may it continue.
Credit to the Opposition
For this writer, the Europa League is a wonderful competition, because I only take it a little bit seriously, and am mostly looking for exciting football and eventful matches, ideally with players I love or am still learning about.
As such, tonight’s outing was just about ideal, and Toulouse played no small part in that, refusing to drop into their shell for long at a time, and staying the course surprisingly long given their high energy output. The visitors would perhaps have deserved another goal for their efforts, as a Kelleher mistake was rectified by Captain Trent, and in the end, they did enough to leave Anfield with their heads held high, despite the result.
What Happens Next
No rest for the Reds, as they host Nottingham Forest in a return to Premier League action on Sunday, before a trip to Bournemouth in the fourth round of the EFL Cup awaits next Wednesday. Liverpool have a deep squad for once, and will have to use every bit of it in the coming weeks, with games coming thick and fast in a number of competitions.