A sloppy, silly match ending in the most anticlimactic manner imaginable — the referee running to the monitor three minutes after a dramatic injury time equaliser to disallow a goal based on a rule that stopped being used two years ago — was just about what the Reds deserved, as Toulouse were the better side for large portions of the game, ensuring Liverpool will have to win one of their remaining two games in order to finish top of Group E.
Below, then, we take a look at some of the winners and losers on the night.
Thijs Dallinga: Although his quads were disappointingly normal-sized for a man whose first name looks like it should be pronounced ‘thighs’, the Dutchman nonetheless produced a tremendous performance in front of his home fans, pressing the Liverpool backline relentlessly as well as setting up team-mates and finishing off moves, culminating in a splendid swivel and finish into the bottom corner past Caoimhín Kelleher to put the hosts two goals up.
The 23-year old is playing his second season in the South of France, but if performances like this become the norm, there likely won’t be a third.
Drama Lovers: This writer prefers it when things are nice and smooth and easy — largely, no doubt, due to the fact that this is an exceedingly rare experience when following Liverpool — but if you’re somebody who enjoys endless highs and lows and late drama and must-win matches, well you’re in luck, because not only did the Reds put in a performance just sloppy enough to let the 14th placed side in Ligue 1 play them off the park, but they also ensured that an early group win is now out of the question, as Toulouse look likely to follow them to the door.
The Replacements: After a first half that saw the Reds broadly control the flow of the match, but fail to produce much in the way of genuine goal threat — not a massive surprise when the starting line-up features only players that prefer to sit outside the box — and cough up a goal through a stupid individual error from Kostas Tsimikas, Jürgen Klopp made three changes at half-time, subbing off the aforementioned Greek, alongside a Ben Doak who made little impact past the first ten minutes and a Wataru Endo who couldn’t stop fouling people.
It was partly a personnel issue — these players were always unlikely to score a ton of goals — but it was also about application, as the Reds were imprecise and lackadaisical on far too many occasions, and allowed a presumed inferior opponent to establish a foothold in the game, and the home crowd to generate the sort of atmosphere the Reds themselves rely on at Anfield.
The Starters: Things didn’t get much better when the presumed starters took the pitch, however, as Toulouse’s best spell of the match was the first 15 minutes of the second half, a period in which the visitors barely managed 50% possession — compared to 74% on average the rest of the match — and rarely got out of their own half without coughing up the ball.
They rallied late, and technically did manage to do enough to nab a draw at the death — if not for some creative refereeing — but while the substitutions did up the intensity, it did nothing for the precision or game management side of things, and the impact subs failed to live up to their billing.
Credit to the Opposition
At Anfield, it appeared Toulouse had scouted the Reds well in advance, and their base play seemed tailored to bypass Liverpool’s press, gracefully threading their way past the Red lines on multiple occasions through clever positioning and knowledge of where the spaces would be. They also came scorching hot out of the blocks in the second half, looking to capitalise on a Liverpool tendency to start slow, before they ran out of energy with half an hour to go.
They did similar things tonight, running riot to start the second half, cutting through the Liverpool press like butter time and again, but unlike two weeks ago, their engines held up, they took their chances, and the Reds failed to make the necessary adjustments to wrest back control of proceedings before it was too late.
It was an impressive performances by the home side, and although their week-to-week play in the domestic league suggests both planning and application may not always be so effective, it’s the sort of thing that will look good on Carlos Martínez Novell’s resume whenever he goes looking for his next gig.
What Happens Next
Just one game to go before the next international break, as the Reds have a home date with Brentford on Sunday. The Bees have had a strong start to the season, sitting ninth in the table, and have troubled Liverpool in recent years, managing a draw and a win in the last four meetings between the sides.
Upon their return from the international break, it’s — of course — another early Saturday kick-off, this time by way of a trip to league leaders and reigning champions Manchester City. No biggie.