Liverpool analysis after the 1-0 Premier League win against Man City at Anfield as Joe Gomez and James Milner upstage Virgil van Dijk.
Salah gives Klopp welcome headache
The last time Manchester City made the short journey down the M62 to Anfield, it was an afternoon when Mohamed Salah underlined his status as arguably the best player in the world.
Barely 12 months later, though, the latest arrival of City saw Salah’s place in the Liverpool starting line-up being questioned.
Well, in a positional sense at least. The Egyptian himself would admit he hasn’t been at his best this season despite posting decent numbers, not helped by a remoulded attack and underperforming side that has limited chances in central areas.
That changed in midweek when, having been benched at Rangers, Salah was introduced late on down the middle and responded with a record-breaking quickfire Champions League hat-trick.
And he similarly prospered here when starting as the focal point up front with Roberto Firmino in behind.
A danger with his pace and trickery when dropping off to the right flank, Salah was denied a goal by a fine save by Ederson and created a gilt-edged chance for Diogo Jota before his matchwinning moment, rolling Joao Cancelo and despatching Alisson Becker’s searching punt.
There had been confusion only moments earlier when Salah’s number appeared on the fourth official’s board, only to be hastily changed.
With Darwin Nunez brought on for the closing stages and causing City problems with his power and direct running, Klopp now has a welcome selection headache at centre forward. And, clearly, Salah’s number isn’t up quite yet.
Gomez shows Haaland is human after all
Even Jurgen Klopp’s insistence otherwise couldn’t prevent this being billed this as a mouthwatering battle between Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Manchester City striker Erling Haaland, among the two best proponents of their craft.
But, come full-time, it was the Reds’ supporting defensive cast who walked off with the plaudits.
Van Dijk, of course, was outstanding up against Haaland, unperturbed by the Norwegian’s frightening physical presence and regularly reading City’s attempts to find their forward, one second-half clearing header over his own crossbar the highlight.
The Dutchman, though, couldn’t do it alone. And, alongside him, Joe Gomez was superb in place of the crocked Ibrahima Konate. It’s difficult to recall Gomez having a better game for Liverpool, blocking shots, intercepting passes, making sliding challenges when required and using the ball well.
Almost as impressive was his right-back replacement James Milner, banishing the memory of his horror show against Phil Foden last year with an excellent display of aggressive, front-footed defending, wringing every ounce of experience from his tiring body.
And when City did get through, Alisson Becker – in between setting up the matchwinner – continued his fine season with a clutch of resourceful saves.
It may have taken a superhuman effort but, as in the Community Shield in July, Liverpool showed Haaland is human after all.
Guardiola gets it wrong
There’s nothing wrong with a sore loser. And they don’t come much more pained in defeat than Pep Guardiola, the City boss responding in usual fashion to this setback.
With almost double Liverpool’s possession, more shots at goal and a greater number of corners, he was perhaps right to be a bit miffed his team didn’t take anything from the game.
But arguably the spark that truly lit Anfield was his reaction to Foden’s strike being correctly chalked off by referee Anthony Taylor following a VAR check shortly after half-time.
Guardiola’s over-the-top reaction towards the Main Stand absolutely didn’t merit having coins thrown at him, as has been claimed. If true, the offenders should be booted out of Anfield, along with the away supporters who once again sullied the occasion with chants about the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters.
The antics of the City boss, though, succeeded in checking the growing momentum of his team and stirred an already vibrant Anfield to an even greater crescendo, with some of his players – well, Bernardo Silva at least – unable to keep their cool.
Having been guilty of being caught up in the atmosphere in the past, Guardiola had given Liverpool an unwitting helping hand yet again. Thanks, Pep.