A Big Hurdle Cleared for the Reds
Palace away is one of the most difficult fixtures of the season, and thankfully, the Reds walked away with all three points.
The hosts made life difficult by narrowing their formation and forcing the ball wide; in fact, they almost took the lead when Andros Townsend rattled the crossbar.
Ultimately though, Liverpool battled their way to a deserved victory. Mo Salah was correctly given a penalty for James Milner to slot home just before half-time, and Sadio Mane finished the game off in the dying seconds, rounding the ‘keeper after Palace were justly reduced to 10 men.
Alisson – 8:
This is why we spent so much money on the Brazilian.
As predicted, Palace proved to be a real test for the ‘keeper, but he passed with flying colours with both his shot-stopping and distribution.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6:
Similar to his performance against West Ham, Trent was reliable in defence, but wasteful going forward.
Palace identified him as a weak link and funneled the play down his side. Unfortunately TAA did little to prove them wrong; some more time to get back up to speed is required.
Joe Gomez – 8:
Dejan Lovren is going to have a tough time getting back into the team if Joe keeps this up.
Positionally he was a bit rash at times, but this is to be expected of the young lad. It’s exciting to see the partnership he’s building with Virgil van Dijk.
Virgil van Dijk – 9 (Man of the Match):
More of the same from arguably the best defender in the league.
These are the types of games that Liverpool have historically failed to see out, but the victory never seemed in danger with VVD taking charge.
Andy Robertson – 7:
Robbo had less to do than the targeted TAA, but when called upon he was solid.
His excellent linkup play with Mane has carried over from last season and hopefully Trent will be able to forge a similar partnership with Mo.
Gini Wijnaldum – 7:
Gini has slowly become an extremely reliable defensive midfielder. Who would’ve thought he’d be keeping Fabinho out of the team?
Despite the commentators chirping about Gini’s away record, the Dutchman’s performance was of a good standard.
James Milner – 6:
Milly scored the crucial first goal with a calmly taken penalty, but unfortunately that was the highlight of his game.
He didn’t do much wrong, he just failed to influence the game as much as he did in the previous fixture; perhaps this is the opening Fabinho needs.
Naby Keita – 7:
Keita had an up and down game, giving away cheap balls and then producing unbelievable twists, turns and lobbed passes.
If this was a 7/10 performance from the Guinean, the league won’t know what hit them once he hits top gear.
Mo Salah – 6:
Salah won the penalty, drew a foul to get Aaron Wan-Bissaka sent-off, and assisted Mane’s goal. Yet his overall performance was decidedly average by his own lofty standards.
A proper goal or two will go a long way towards settling the Egyptian into his second season.
Sadio Mane – 8:
Mane is the only one of the front three to have immediately carried last season’s form into this one.
His fantastic goal aside, he was causing the Palace defence problems all night with his darting runs and unpredictable passes. Hopefully his teammates catch up soon.
Bobby Firmino – 6:
Even when our Bobby’s not at his best, he’s a crucial part of the team’s buildup and structure.
Once he gets more minutes under his belt, the goals, assists and overall linkup play will surely follow.
Jordan Henderson – 7 (on for Milner 67′):
Hendo did a solid job of helping to see the game out.
Adam Lallana – N/A (on for Keita 87′):
No time to make an impact.
Daniel Sturridge – N/A (on for Firmino 93′)
No time to make an impact.
Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno, and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Jurgen Klopp – 8:
Many were surprised and nervous when Fabinho was omitted from the squad, but ultimately Klopp was justified in trusting his midfield from last week.
Yet again, Klopp’s half-time talk had a resounding effect on the game as his squad saw out the remaining minutes when in previous years they may have crumbled.
Letting Go of the Past
While it’s relieving to gain a positive result from a tricky fixture early in the season, the signs for the future are far more important.
Aside from the brilliant displays from the defence and goalkeeper, the fact that the midfield can now comfortably control and manage games is extremely pleasing.
We’re going to see a lot more 2-0 victories this season, and far fewer 4-2 results as the games roll on, which could be a deciding factor in the title race.
Last week West Ham were able to create a couple of chances from corners, but in this game those chances were not only eradicated, they were reversed.
Mane and Salah regularly broke free and created dangerous moments when Palace committed their defenders forward.
Looking ahead, this will have the double effect of creating another goal-scoring outlet, as well as causing the opposition to think twice before relying too heavily on set-pieces.
More to Come
The likes of Trent, Bobby, Mo and Keita are yet to get fully up to speed, and Shaqiri and Sturridge haven’t been given a chance to carry on from their brilliant pre-season performances.
Even Klopp himself noted that the attack is not on par with the defence so far, which is not something you’d associate with a Liverpool team.
Once everything clicks, and with a bit of luck, then the sky truly is the limit for this side. Maybe they’ll even be strong enough to challenge the immense Manchester City.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 21/08/2018