Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool

Liverpool Lucky to Win

Crystal Palace will undoubtedly feel hard done by after squandering countless chances to secure a vital victory against the Reds.

Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha in particular will rue their missed opportunities as they ultimately kept Liverpool in the game until Mane and Salah were able to steal the win.

Pessimism aside, it’s another example of this Liverpool team breaking bad habits, as it’s rare to see the Reds win a game when they don’t deserve it, unlike rivals Manchester United.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 6:

 

Karius was quite naive and clumsy when coming out to pressure Wilfried Zaha, and it cost his team what could’ve been a decisive penalty.

He bounced back well though and made a couple of strong saves to help keep the Reds in it.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5:

Another pacy winger has gotten the better of the young Scouser; Zaha was turning him inside out all game.

Going forward though, TAA was a useful asset, but you have to wonder how he will cope with the challenge of Leroy Sane in the Champions League.

Joel Matip – 4:

 

Quite simply, Matip’s time to prove himself is quickly running out as Benteke bullied him from start to finish.

Once again he was incredibly shaky at the back, and surely Lovren will have to take his place against Manchester City.

Virgil van Dijk – 6:

The Dutchman didn’t do much wrong himself, but his one glaring weakness was on show at Selhurst Park.

He spends an awful lot of time telling others what to do and where to go, but sometimes you need to take charge yourself and deal with situations even if someone else should’ve already done it.

Andy Robertson – 8 (Man of the Match):

 

Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson are easily the first three names on the team sheet these days.

The Scot was outstanding again and coolly provided the winning assist for Mo Salah late in the second-half.

Jordan Henderson – 4:

 

Hendo struggled badly for the vast majority of the game to deal with Palace’s pressing game and to provide any meaningful contribution going forward.

Jurgen Klopp will be desperate to get a more influential player in the summer to sit at the base of the midfield.

Gini Wijnaldum – 3:

 

It’s difficult to asses Gini’s performance because he did next to nothing, it was easy to forget he was on the pitch until he was subbed off.

He must be better against City, as he will again be tasked with the job of harassing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.

James Milner – 7:

 

Milner was by far the best out of a poor midfield, at least he was able to provide the front three with some amount of service.

He helped open the scoring with an intelligent low cross for Mane to put away after wrong-footing Wan-Bissaka.

Mo Salah – 7:

 

This was certainly a more quiet game from Salah than fans are used to, and yet he still scored the winner.

A combination of a good defensive performance from Palace and a poor midfield performance from Liverpool restricted the Egyptian, but when he finally got his chance, he took it with impressive composure.

Sadio Mane – 7:

 

This game from Mane perfectly summarised his season so far, full of ups and downs.

Mane wasted a chance to score when he chose to dive, he then had a goal correctly ruled out for offside before finally opening the scoring after some excellent movement in the box.

Roberto Firmino – 6:

 

Firmino struggled without any form of service from those around him.

He worked as hard as ever though, and will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to be more involved against City.

Subs

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 (on for Wijnaldum – 64′):

Ox was better than Wijnaldum in the midfield, but not good enough.

Bizarrely he was playing as though he was saving himself for City, as opposed to working his socks off to secure his place.

Adam Lallana – N/A (on for Mane – 65′):

 

Sadly Lallana lasted only a few minutes before coming off injured.

Hopefully, it’s less serious than it appeared, but it would seem his season, and perhaps World Cup hopes are over.

 

Dejan Lovren – 6 (on for Lallana – 70′):

 

Lovren was solid as Klopp changed to a back three.

Matip’s performance should see Lovren return to the starting lineup soon.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Alberto Moreno, Danny Ings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 7:

Like his team, Klopp’s performance can be judged separately over the two halves.

Lovren should’ve started ahead of Matip, and the same might be said for the Ox and Wijnaldum; likewise, it’s unfathomable that he wouldn’t have realised Palace’s game plan would be to unleash Zaha against TAA.

Thankfully Klopp changed things in the second half, and his decision to switch to a 3-5-2 formation ultimately stunted Palace’s attack and won the game.

Talking Points

TAA Roasted Again

No one wants to be too harsh on the youngster, particularly after such an encouraging season that has been mostly faultless.

However, it is clear that fast, direct-running wingers can get the better of him, and this must be addressed one way or another before the game against City.

Unfortunately, Joe Gomez is injured and Nathaniel Clyne is unfit, so the options are limited, however perhaps Emre Can or Milner could slot in, otherwise Trent will need more support, potentially leaving gaps in other areas.

Klopp’s Adjustments

Jurgen Klopp won in his 100th Premier League game for Liverpool in what has been a thoroughly enjoyable although trophyless start to his stint.

Klopp’s ability to read a game and understand how to adjust his team accordingly paid dividends here, and he will need to do it again against City.

For example, if he leaves TAA at right back, he could exploit City’s eagerness to attack him by encouraging Salah to stay up as high as possible and drop into the space vacated by their overlapping left back.

Season Defining Run Ahead

Starting on Thursday, Liverpool face City at Anfield, Everton away and City away in the space of a mere seven days.

Despite being the Merseyside Derby, the games against City are far more important at this stage of the season, particularly because Chelsea bow find themselves 10 points adrift of the Reds in 5th place.

If Liverpool can emerge victorious following that manic week, then the possibility of a second place finish and a sixth Champions League title could well be on the cards.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 02/04/2018

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Liverpool 5 – 0 Watford

Salah Slaughters The Hornets

If there’s anything that makes up for a loss against Manchester United, it’s a big win at home the following week.

From start to finish, The Reds annihilated their opponents, and on another day the final score could’ve been doubled.

Mo Salah opened the scoring with some individual brilliance, followed by a simple tap-in from an Andy Robertson cross. Firmino sealed the win with an unorthodox finish before Salah netted two more to take his league tally up to 28.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 6:

Karius had very little to do, a testament to the brilliance of the team in front of him.

One free-kick rattled his crossbar, but other than that, the German simply had to recycle possession.

Joe Gomez – 7:

Jurgen Klopp wisely allowed Trent Alexander-Arnold to step out of the limelight for this game after his mistakes last week, Gomez more than rose to the occasion though.

It seems that Gomez is the better defender, but TAA is better going forward, it would be wise to rotate the two in games that need one trait more than the other.

Joel Matip – 6:

 

Dejan Lovren was also omitted after last week’s nightmare, and Matip took his chance to stake a claim to become a regular.

He appeared far calmer and assured than in previous games, despite a couple of wayward passes.

Virgil van Dijk – 7.5:

 

VVD was back to his commanding, organising best against Watford.

While The Hornets didn’t do much to test the defence, part of that was to do with VVD being proactive and not allowing them to get started.

Andy Robertson – 9:

 

Even if Liverpool were given an unlimited budget, it’d be difficult to justify replacing the Scot with just about anyone.

He defended superbly and his cross for Salah’s second was utterly sublime.

Jordan Henderson – 5:

 

The captain is such a frustrating player to watch at times.

He played some unbelievably good passes under pressure to put Mane and Salah through, but also gave the ball away needlessly when there was no pressure.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6:

 

Gini played well, but it’s clear that he is either unfit or just rusty after missing the last few weeks.

He was mostly tidy in possession and reliable in defence, but ultimately failed to truly impact the game, even with the dominance some of his teammates showed.

Emre Can – 6:

 

Can came off early due to a back injury, but Klopp later assured fans it was “not too serious”.

Before coming off, he made some good runs and linked up well with the players around him.

Mo Salah – 10 (Man of the Match):

 

It’s not been since Luis Suarez was banging in goals that Liverpool fans have been so excited to see a player week in, week out.

His first and third goals were particularly impressive, with his ball control somewhat resembling the Uruguayan at times.

Sadio Mane – 7.5:

 

Mane’s greatest strength this season has been his selflessness.

He works tirelessly for the team, and rarely goes himself if the option to pass gives the team a greater chance of scoring, as displayed for Salah’s hat-trick goal.

Roberto Firmino – 8:

 

Firmino’s skill and industry perfectly rounds out this lethal front-three.

His linkup play and defending was typically on point, and his round-the-back flick to score his goal was masterful.

Subs

James Milner – 7 (on for Can – 26′):

 

It will be such a shame if Milner moves on at the end of the season.

He was again a calming, and yet potent influence in the midfield.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 (on for Wijnaldum – 70′):

 

The Ox was clearly keen to make up for last week.

Perhaps he was trying too hard to make amends, but regardless, his energy helped Liverpool push on and continue punishing Watford.

Danny Ings – 7.5 (on for Firmino – 79′):

 

Every Liverpool fan was willing him on to score in front of The Kop.

Unfortunately, he was denied twice by Orestis Karnezis, but the second time was enough for Salah to tap in the rebound.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Ragnar Klavan, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alberto Moreno

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9:

It was imperative that Klopp set his team up to instantly respond to the questions that were raised at Old Trafford.

He made bold, but necessary changes to the lineup, and that paid dividends.

As time goes on, it’s becoming clear that the German is slowly but surely eradicating bad habits that had become ingrained in the club for many years before he arrived.

Talking Points

Bouncing Back

It happened after losing to Manchester City, then against Tottenham and now against Manchester United.

It’s becoming a running theme for Liverpool, and one that will serve The Reds well in the long-term chase for silverware.

If Liverpool can go on another unbeaten run, then a top-four finish will be certain, and a good showing in the Champions League likely.

Attacking Records

Hendo and Mane both achieved individual milestones by making their 200th and 50th Liverpool appearances respectively.

But it was Firmino and Salah’s record-breaking goal tallys that stood out and will surely make the headlines.

This is Firmino’s greatest goal-scoring season to date, and Salah now moves into pole position for the league’s golden boot, four ahead of Harry Kane and a whopping seven ahead of Sergio Aguero.

International Break

The international break is never welcome as it is an unnecessary interruption and chance for players to get injured.

It has the potential to derail form and momentum, so Klopp will be hoping all of his players come back fresh and can pick up from where they left off.

The good news is that it will give a few players the chance to recover from niggling injuries, and others some much needed match fitness.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 18/03/2018

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Manchester United 2 – 1 Liverpool

Disappointing Defeat for Reds Against the Old Enemy

Liverpool fans were left devastated by the result and poor performance at Old Trafford, as Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku exposed both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren.

Jose Mourinho, for all of his faults, again demonstrated why he is considered one of the very best managers of his generation as he put on a tactical masterclass.

Both of United’s goals come from route one football that was woefully dealt with by the Liverpool defence, and despite some poor refereeing and a couple of strong penalty shouts, Liverpool have no one to blame but themselves.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 6:

Karius could do nothing about either of Rashford’s well-taken goals, and was virtually untested for the rest of the game.

He wanted to come forward for a corner late in the game, but was oddly ushered back by Jurgen Klopp.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 2:

 

In games like these, it’s important to keep context in mind, TAA is a young player who is naturally a midfielder; he also didn’t receive the help he needed from those around him.

However, it is undeniable that his inexperience showed as Rashford targeted him successfully.

Dejan Lovren – 3:

 

Oh dear, he’s back, the old Lovren is back.

Unlike TAA, Lovren is an experienced player in his natural position, and despite spending all week talking about how he was going to manhandle Lukaku, he was embarrassed by the Belgian regularly.

Virgil van Dijk – 4: 

 

VVD didn’t fare much better than his partner, but he did improve and was more comfortable after floundering under United’s initial wave.

He unbelievably missed a free header from only a couple of yards in the first-half, but was better at handling Lukaku; it’s a mystery why Klopp didn’t have him doing this from the start.

Andy Robertson – 6: 

It’s a testament to his form that Mourinho avoided his flank for most of the night.

Robbo couldn’t do anything about the goals and was able to whip in a few dangerous crosses, but no one was alert enough to get on the end of them.

 

Emre Can – 4: 

Despite what some have argued, Can was another who had a poor day at the office.

He was outmuscled by Lukaku and then simply gave up for United’s second goal; he also almost allowed them to score a third when he didn’t track the run of Juan Mata.

James Milner – 6: 

Milner’s tried and worked hard, but he couldn’t do enough to turn the game around for his team.

He looked one of the more likely players to create something as he drove the team forward and kept finding runners with his passes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 3: 

 

Simply put, the Ox looked lost.

It’s bizarre that a player that had been so influential in the last few weeks could become so anonymous overnight; his constant mishandling of possession drew the fury of Klopp.

Mo Salah – 5: 

 

It’s difficult to criticise the Egyptian after such a fine debut season, and the fact that he was completely marked out of the game.

Mourinho knew that keeping Salah under wraps would be key to winning and both Nemanja Matic and Eric Bailley did just that to perfection.

Sadio Mane – 4:

 

The fact that United focused so heavily on Salah meant that Mane was afforded far more time and space than he normally would against such a defensive team; unfortunately, he did nothing with i1t.

He gave the ball away countless times, and despite an improved second-half, he rarely looked dangerous.

Roberto Firmino – 7 (Man of the Match): 

The best of the worst might be a more accurate description.

Firmino did everything to drag his team over the line, but no one else seemed to show the same desire and fight as the Brazilian.

Subs

Adam Lallana – 5 (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain – 62′): 

 

Lallana is still a long way off from getting back to his best.

He tried hard to unlock the defence, but he just doesn’t look the same players as he was before the injury.

Gini Wijnaldum – 5 (on for Alexander-Arnold – 80′): 

 

Club captain Jordan Henderson neither started, nor came on as a substitute; whether this is because he’s fallen out of favour, or was simply unfit remains to be seen.

In his place, Gini came on, but couldn’t change the result.

Dominic Solanke – 5 (on for Robertson – 84′): 

 

It’s concerning that The Reds have to turn to an u23s striker with no EPL goals to his name to try and grab the winner at Old Trafford.

The youngster did nothing wrong, but having a decent winger or an experienced striker on the bench may have given Liverpool a better chance of stealing a result.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 5:

Team selection was not an issue, even though in hindsight Lovren and TAA were poor, they were in excellent form in the buildup.

However, it is clear that Klopp should’ve had VVD marking Lukaku, and not the dodgy Croatian, if VVD won the headers that Lovren missed, then United would never have scored their goals.

Ultimately though, it was the players who let Klopp down, and he will need to pick them up in order to finish the season on a high.

Talking Points

What It Means

 

In my preview, I predicted a comfortable win for the better team, Liverpool.

In reality, United were the deserved victors and really should’ve won by more in the end, despite being bailed out by some poor refereeing.

Does this result mean that United are in fact the better team? I don’t think so. Liverpool will use this experience and come back stronger; Liverpool are a club on the rise whereas United are declining.

Lessons Learned

 

This is a young team that hasn’t been together very long, and games like these will only benefit them in the long run.

Klopp too will have surely learnt something about his own team from the opposition, as much as Lovren and TAA were at fault for the goals, under Klopp’s system it is not too difficult to isolate individuals and force errors.

It’s clear that there are still holes in this squad and that certain players are, at least not yet, at the standard that Liverpool need.

Bounce Back

 

It’s not all doom and gloom though, Liverpool fought back valiantly where in years gone by United could’ve on to score two or three more.

Liverpool must now move on from the game and use it to go on another good run of form as they did after the defeats against Tottenham and Swansea earlier in the season.

As much as all Liverpool fans are disappointed, it’s important to keep things in perspective and remain behind the team.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea1111111111111111111

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 07/03/2018

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Liverpool 0 – 0 Porto (Aggregate 5-0)

Bore Draw Enough to See Reds Through

 

In the build-up to the game, great intrigue surrounded both manager’s team selections. In the end though, both managers curiously decided to rest only half of their respective teams.

This lead to only a handful of players really their hardest to impress, and resulted in a forgettable 0-0 draw.

One of the only memorable aspects of the match was the class shown be Liverpool’s supporters, and disrespect shown by Porto’s.

Liverpool fans booed the Porto fans for deliberately ruining the minute silence in homage of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, but showed their own respect by loudly applauding legendary ‘keeper Iker Casillas when he approached The Kop.

To be fair to the travelling fans, they were the first to get there and admirably sang and cheered until well after the final whistle.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7:

 

Another morale-boosting clean sheet for the German.

Dealt with the few things that came is way comfortably, barring one spilt shot, but there was no danger of it leading to a goal.

Joe Gomez – 6:

 

Good to see Gomez playing again after another unfortunate injury setback.

It’s clear that, despite a couple of good crosses and a solid performance, he doesn’t offer as much as Trent Alexander-Arnold in attack, and is less comfortable defending out wide.

Dejan Lovren – 7:

 

Lovren somewhat filled the role that Virgil van Dijk vacated by taking on more responsibility with the ball at his feet.

An excellent block late in the game to deny Oliver Torres was the only moment where he was truly called into action though.

Joel Matip – 6: 

 

Matip again failed to upstage Lovren, even though he didn’t have many chances to do so.

His passing was inconsistent, but this wasn’t the type of game where his defensive merits could be judged effectively

Alberto Moreno – 7: 

 

Moreno was a decent threat throughout the night in attack, and he kept pressing forward even after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.

His defensive work was also sound, but despite a good display, he won’t be replacing Andy Robertson anytime soon.

Jordan Henderson – 7: 

His resolute defensive work was the highlight of his night, as he was fairly sporadic with his passing.

He wasted a chance to put Firmino through on goal in the first half, but in the second he linked up well with Milner, drove the ball forward and played an outstanding threaded pass to the Brazilian striker.

Emre Can – 7: 

Played a more advanced role than he has done recently, but he never got out of second gear.

A cheeky nutmeg on Andre Andre gave the fans something to sing about on a mostly uneventful night.

 

James Milner – 7 (Man of the Match): 

 

Milner’s quality as a football player, and not just a workhorse, has really been demonstrated over the last few weeks.

He almost scored twice as he had to stretch to reach Lallana’s pass, and also headed a Salah cross straight at Casillas.

Adam Lallana – 6: 

 

Lallana’s first start for many months due to injury, hopefully a return to form isn’t too far away either.

His touch was typically pinpoint, but he was unable to turn his twists and turns into a genuine attacking threat.

Sadio Mane – 7:

 

Mane was another player who clearly took the night off for the most part.

Even so, Mane had a couple of difficult chances before he was replaced, but he was unable to get on the score sheet.

Roberto Firmino – 7: 

 

Firmino had an unusually quiet game, but he still worked hard for the team.

Like Mane, Firmino also had a couple of chances to win the game, but his finishing wasn’t as good as it has been in previous games.

Subs

Danny Ings – 6 (on for Firmino – 62′): 

It would’ve been nice to see Ings start this game.

He was lively when he came on and got into good positions, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Mo Salah – 7 (on for Mane – 75′): 

Salah was given 15 minutes to try and send the fans home happy.

He created a couple of chances for his teammates, but they were unable to capitalise.

Ragnar Klavan – 5 (on for Can – 81′): 

Came on to see out the game, as Klopp switched to a back three.

A poor touch and needless foul almost cost Liverpool, as Porto nearly scored from the cross. Luckily Lovren and Klavan himself were able to block the shot well.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 6:

Ultimately, Klopp must be praised for guiding the team into the quarter-finals.

However, his decision to neither rotate the entire team, nor maintain the entire team’s form was puzzling.

The likes of Ings and Dominic Solanke would’ve benefited greatly from a full 90 minutes in the Champions League, while Mane and Firmino could’ve used a rest.

Talking Points

Through to the Next Round

 

The hard work was done in Portugal, and Liverpool deservedly march onward.

Liverpool, in their current form, should fear no team, obviously matching up with a smaller side is preferable, but beating one of Europe’s elite isn’t out of the question.

Liverpool’s potential opponents include:

Real Madrid

Tottenham (2) or (2) Juventus

Manchester City (4) or (0) Basel

Roma (1) or (2) Shakhtar Donetsk

Manchester United (0) or (0) Sevilla

Besiktas (0) or Bayern Munich (5)

Barcelona (1) or Chelsea (1)

Lack of Midfield Creativity

 

Of course, the easiest explanation for Liverpool’s subdued performance is the fact that they knew that their position was secured, so there was no need to push themselves too hard.

Another explanation though is a lack of drive and creativity from the midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain was missed severly.

The Ox has grown to be a vital player for The Reds, so surely when he returns against United, Liverpool will be far more dynamic again.

United Up Next

 

United play their second leg game tomorrow morning, and unlike Liverpool, they don’t have the luxury of resting players due to drawing against Sevilla 0-0.

Not only will Liverpool’s players be fresher, but they’re also in better form as United have been fortunate lately to beat Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

It will certainly be the most important game of the season so far for Liverpool, and a win would be a massive step towards finishing 2nd.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 07/03/2018

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Liverpool 2 – 0 Newcastle

The Goals Keep Coming for Liverpool

Another professional performance. A genuinely satisfying feeling, and one that is becoming more normal for The Reds.

Loris Karius made a crucial save to deny Mohamed Diame for Newcastle’s only real chance of the game. The defence and midfield hardly gave their opposition anything to work with.

Newcastle’s defence was predictably strong, but not enough to deny Liverpool as strikes from Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were enough for The Reds to walk away as deserved victors.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7:

Showed excellent concentration to save a dangerous strike from Diame after having nothing to do for 40 minutes.

If he wasn’t so aware, the scores would’ve been level at 1-1, and the game may have taken a different direction.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7:

TAA’s progression continued last night as he again showed his qualities in defence and attack.

His ability to find space and deliver dangerous crosses regularly justifies his place ahead of Joe Gomez.

Dejan Lovren – 7:

Lorven wasn’t as dominant as his partner, but he was undoubtedly more composed that Joel Matip has been.

He could’ve done better with the chances he got from set-pieces, but aside from that, it was a pleasing return for the Croatian.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: 

VVD hardly put a foot wrong all night.

His organisation and leadership skills were on full display, further justifying Jurgen Klopp’s decision to sign him.

Andrew Robertson – 7: 

Robbo didn’t produce the same level of performance the fans have grown accustomed to, but he was still reliable throughout.

He limited the danger that pacy DeAndre Yedlin posed considerably and with ease.

Jordan Henderson – 7: 

A good performance from the skipper, if an unspectacular one.

He’s sometimes subject to unreasonable criticism for a lack of penetration, but he moved the ball well and did everything that was asked of him.

Emre Can – 7: 

It was a gamble selecting Can to start as another yellow would’ve meant he would miss the game against Manchester United through suspension.

Fortunately, Can remained disciplined and again showed his strengths in passing and driving the ball forward.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8: 

The Ox put in another influential display; his days of being all show and no end-product at Arsenal seem far away.

He set up Salah’s goal expertly and was lively from the first minute until he was replaced.

Mo Salah – 8 (Man of the Match): 

Even though Newcastle’s defenders made a point of marking him tightly and offering very little space to work with, he still got the better of them.

His reluctance to shoot cost him an early chance, but he made up for it with a cool finish for the opener.

Sadio Mane – 7:

Despite a couple of hiccups along the way where his touch let him down, Mane again showed his resilience and was rewarded with the winning goal.

It has to be said that he is no less valuable than Salah or Firmino despite scoring fewer goals.

Roberto Firmino – 7: 

He struggled early on with the limited space that Newcastle afforded him, but he grew into the game and reemerged as the spearhead of every attack.

An absolute pleasure to watch.

Subs

Adam Lallana – 6 (on for Mane – 74′): 

Looked to be up with the pace and will hopefully start against Porto.

James Milner – 6 (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain – 79′): 

Helped his teammates see out the game professionally.

Joel Matip – N/A (on for Firmino – 88′): 

No time to make a difference.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Joe Gomez, Dominic Solanke

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Klopp has managed to find a better balance against sides that sit back and try to lure Liverpool into overcommitting.

Recent results have begun to change the minds of doubters who criticised the German for a percevied lack of organisation and defensive discipline.

Time will tell if this trend continues, but on current form and the promise of further additions in the Summer, it’s hard to doubt the man.

Talking Points

No Longer A One Man Army

Recently, Klopp stated that he believes that not only have other players stepped up to fill Phil Coutinho’s void, but the team is far less predictable now.

In the past when the going got tough, players would blindly give him the ball, hoping he’d conjure up a moment of magic.

The stats prove Klopp’s theory to be correct, and in fact, Liverpool’s record without the Brazilian this season has been better, perhaps due to the reasons listed above.

Liverpool have played 20 games with and 21 without Coutinho this season.

With: W8 D10 L2 1.70 points per game.

Without: W16 D2 L3 2.38 points per game.

Return of Rafa

It’s always nice to be reunited with our fat Spanish waiter.

Rafa Benitez is a man who rightfully will be remembered for his contributions to this great club both on and off the pitch.

Whether it’s the glory of Istanbul or his steadfast support to the Hillsborough families, no one will forget what he has done for the Club and City of Liverpool.

This was the first time that Klopp managed to get a win over him, and despite Newcastle facing relegation, a part of Rafa must be secretly pleased with how well Liverpool are doing.

Porto Rotation

Even though the focus will now shift to the midweek game against Porto, one eye must be kept on Manchester United.

Klopp faces a tricky conundrum; should he give key players a well-earned rest, or keep them together to maintain the current momentum.

The tie is more or less over, and Klopp would be well within his rights to field an entirely changed XI.

However, doing so could inadvertently stunt Liverpool’s flow and reduce our chances of putting United to the sword.

It is vital that Klopp finds the right balance in this sense.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 04/03/2018

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Liverpool 4 – 1 West Ham

The Goals Keep Coming for Liverpool

The Reds, at least temporarily, moved into 2nd place after a repeat of the result from the Olympic Stadium earlier in the season. The Hammers had a couple of chances in the first half, including a chip from Marko Arnautovic which was tipped onto the crossbar. However, it was a different Liverpool that turned out for the second half, dominating their opponents and punishing them regularly. On another day Liverpool could’ve scored 7 or 8, but every Reds fan will be pleased to see this excellent run of results continue.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: Was only seriously tested on three occasions on a quiet afternoon for the stopper. He brilliantly denied Arnautovic twice in the first half, but couldn’t do anything to stop Michail Antonio.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: This kid is special. Another mature performance from a player whose mental and technical abilities are incredible for a lad of his age. TAA’s crossing was a particular highlight in a game where his all-around talent shone through.

Joel Matip – 6: Similar to previous games, Matip again failed to justify his place ahead of Dejan Lovren. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes beyond gifting Arnautovic an early chance, but he still doesn’t play with confidence.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7: VVD also gifted West Ham a chance or two, but made up for it with the other 99% of his actions. He was largely untested for the majority of the game, but was again a strong presence at the back.

Andrew Robertson – 9: The bargain signing of the season. Like TAA, it’s easy to forget how young Robertson is. It’s a joy to watch him as he plays with his heart on his sleeve and fights for every pass, tackle and cross.

Emre Can – 7: Despite getting a goal and an assist, Can had a fairly quiet game. Considering the way the rest of the team were able to dominate West Ham, it was a surprise to see Can not getting more involved.

James Milner – 8: Milly has become an indispensable part of this squad. His leadership is invaluable, but it’s not his sole contribution, as his passing recently has been phenomenal. Should’ve had an assist when he played a perfectly weighted through ball to Firmino but the Brazilian failed to convert.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8: The Ox was one player who turned it up in the second half. He grabbed two assists and almost scored himself as he ran riot over West Ham’s defence. It was a surprise to see him start, but he’s given Klopp something to think about after that performance.

Mo Salah – 8: Salah is now level with Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot, and he is still not showing any signs of slowing down. He was unfortunate to hit the post in the first half and he then headed over moments later. In typical Salah fashion though, the chances kept coming, and he inevitably found the back of the net.

Sadio Mane – 7: Couldn’t quite carry over his Champions League form into this game, but he was still a constant threat with his movement. He missed a couple of big chances but was duly rewarded with a goal eventually.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): He’s simply brilliant. Firmino was at the heart of every attack and again showed his brilliance. A cheeky nutmeg was followed by an outrageous no-look shot as he added another goal to his tally.

Subs

Adam Lallana – N/A (on for Firmino – 82′): No time to make a difference.

Alberto Moreno – N/A (on for Mane – 86′): No time to make a difference.

Dominic Solanke – N/A (on for Salah – 86′): No time to make a difference.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Klopp had plenty of time to prepare for this fixture, so there could be no excuses if Liverpool walked away with anything less than 3 points. Thankfully the team were sharp and the tactics employed paid off spectacularly. A running theme with Klopp, the only criticism is that he again didn’t give his subs enough game time after the match had already been won in the 77th minute.

Talking Points

Goals Galore

A good habit Liverpool are falling into is scoring in every game, usually more than once. The other encouraging sign is that despite the front three, and especially Salah, dominating the headlines, it’s not just them who are scoring. The defenders and midfielders are chipping in with goals and assists as well showing tremendous all-around attacking potency throughout the team.

Best XI

It’s arguable that Klopp has now more or less found his current best XI. The only real questions are whether the Ox or Gini WIjnaldum should start in midfield, and who should partner VVD at centre back between Lovren and Matip. The core of the team is well and truly established and have been consistently putting in impressive attacking and defensive displays.

Another Week Off

Liverpool have a week to prepare for the next game at home against Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s side will look to steal a result as they did against Manchester United, so Klopp will need his players to repeat yesterday’s efforts. The upcoming game against United may appear more important, but it is vital that Liverpool are in a position to secure 2nd place by not dropping points against Newcastle.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 25/02/2018

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Porto 0 – 5 Liverpool

Reds Pummel Porto In First-Leg

Liverpool ran away with a perfect result in the first-leg of their round of 16 tie. It looked like it may not be the Reds’ night after a weak start in what was a surprisingly conservative opening period from both sides. The first 15 minutes were blighted by sloppy, unimaginative passing from Liverpool and Porto looked to be more likely of creating something. Thankfully, the Reds took control after 20 minutes and never looked back from there. Sadio Mane opened the rout after Jose Sa spilt his shot over the line, and Mo Salah scored his 30th goal of the season five minutes later. Mane scored a simple tap-in after the break, followed by an excellent finish from Roberto Firmino before Mane completed his hat-trick. It was an outstanding night for all of the Reds, but everyone will be particularly pleased to see Mane finally recovering from his slump.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: The German had virtually nothing to do in the first-half barring a few simple catches, but on the rare occasions he was called upon he did so with the same confidence he has shown in the last few fixtures.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 9: Porto were letting all of the Liverpool players have plenty of time on the ball except for TAA. The youngster was relentlessly pressed but he never looked like faltering. He dealt with the dangerous Yacine Brahimi comfortably while also getting forward to support Salah, so much so that Brahimi was forced to venture into more central areas to avoid TAA and try to get into the game. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he is only 19 and playing out of position from his natural role as a central-midfielder.

Dejan Lovren – 8: The Croatian made a vital block early to deny Otavio the chance to put Porto up 1-0. He followed this with a lovely long pass to Mane to give him an opportunity to create a scoring chance. He also won the ball from Sa’s throw to begin the move for Liverpool’s first goal of the night. An excellent performance from a man who comes under regular criticism.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7: Van Dijk made his Champions League debut for Liverpool on a brillaint night all around for the Reds. He made a crucial touch to divert a shot from Tiquinho Soares late in the first-half but also made one woeful attempt at a tackle against Corona in the box. In the second-half, he made another critical block to again deny Soares immediately after Firmino’s goal, but aside from these incidences, he didn’t have much to do.

Andy Robertson – 8: Another player who made his Champions League debut on the night. Robbo put in some threatening crosses, including one for Firmino that was only stopped by an outstanding intervention from Ivan Marcano and another for Sadio Mane late in the second-half. His only error throughout occurred when he was too slow to release Mane on a counter-attack.

Jordan Henderson – 6: An unremarkable but tidy game from the Liverpool captain. He didn’t do anything wrong, but it is arguable that he needs to be doing more than merely sweeping up at the back and recycling possession to help influence the game.

Gini Wijnaldum – 8: This was Gini’s best game for months now as he found himself involved in everything at both ends of the pitch. He should’ve had an early goal when he made a great run, but Mane was unable to find him at the back post. Moments later he drove through several Porto players and then laid the ball off to Mane who bundled it past Sa.

James Milner – 9: Liverpool’s vice-captain assisted the second goal when he smashed the ball off the post from range where it, fortunately, fell to a calm Salah who tucked it into the back of the net. This was also Milner’s best game in a while as he was involved in the build-up for most of the goals and got direct assists for two of them.

Sadio Mane – 10 (Man of the Match): The out of sorts winger scored the first goal of a much-needed hat-trick only moments after failing to roll it to Wijnaldum for a certain tap -in. He swooped to score his second after Sa could only parry away Firmino’s low shot. His performance caught up with his goal tally in the second half, as demonstrated by some brilliant work in the build-up to Firmino’s goal and a screamer from outside the box. It is also worth noting that he also showed a marked improvement in his willingness and ability to drop back and assist Robertson at left-back when defending crosses.

Mo Salah – 9: The Egyptian magician showed remarkable composure and skill when he collected Milner’s rebound. He managed to take all the pace off the ball with his first touch, dink it over the ‘keeper with his second, head it forward with his third and finally directed the ball over the line with his fourth. He was a constant threat throughout the rest of the game as he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Roberto Firmino – 8: The Brazilian was relatively quiet in attack, but worked tirelessly for the team to help turn over possession. He was unable to get a good shot away on the break under pressure from two defenders, but Mane pounced on the rebound though to make it 3-0. His selfless toiling was duly rewarded with a goal of his own after some good link-up play with his teammates.

Subs

Joel Matip (on for Jordan Henderson – 74′) – N/A: Matip was again brought on as extra security to help see the game out, but Porto were already finished by that stage, and he had nothing at all to do.

Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold – 79′) – N/A: Gomez was also brought on to sure-up the defence, it was good to see him back so soon after his injury.

Danny Ings (on for Firmino – 79′) – N/A: It was a heart-warming sight to see Ings make his long-overdue Champions League debut after a nightmare run of injuries. Liverpool were well and truly in cruise control upon his introduction, although he still managed to pick up the assist for Mane’s third goal.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: After the third or fourth goals, Klopp probably should’ve taken the opportunity to give the likes of Firmino, Mane and Salah a well-earned rest and award players such as Solanke, Lallana and Ings crucial minutes. Substitutions aside though it was a virtually flawless night for Klopp and his men, a deserved reward for an outstanding performance and tactical implementation.

Talking Points

Mane Is Back

It had been coming for a many weeks now, but it’s still a massive relief that Mane has returned to form at such a crucial stage of the season. If he can maintain that sort of level for the rest of the season it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Liverpool can continue to climb the Premier League table and go far in the Champions League. This performance was a just reward for a player who has worked so hard over the last several games to try and regain momentum but was continually struck down by misfortune.

Improved Midfield Performance

Even though the Reds drew against Spurs and comfortably beat Southampton there was still concern over the noticeably toothless midfield. Both games feature fairly different combinations, and yet the same problems remained. The likes of Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum seemed incapable of controlling the midfield and struggled to impose themselves onto games. A much improved Milner and Wijnaldum against Porto was an encouraging sign that this combination, and perhaps with Can behind them, could be the one that finally addresses this ongoing issue.

Second-Leg a Dead Rubber

Of course, it’s never over until the final whistle, but you’d have to think that five away goals are more than enough to see the Reds through to the quarter-finals. With that in mind, hopefully Klopp will utilise this rare opportunity to rest certain players, in particular Mane, Salah and Firmino who will be expected to play every other game until the end of the season. Allowing them to recharge their batteries for the run in will have the added effect of allowing fringe players such as Solanke, Lallana, Ings or even Ben Woodburn extra minutes and experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. However, given his track record, Klopp will likely field a near full-strength team for the return leg regardless.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 15/02/2018.

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Southampton 0 – 2 Liverpool

Reds Hold Firm To See Off Saints

After a frustrating result against Spurs last week, Liverpool fans were desperate for a long overdue win at St. Mary’s. Jurgen Klopp opted to make a few changes due to the upcoming match against FC Porto, and Tottenham’s defeat of Arsenal and Manchester United’s loss against Newcastle only heightened the stakes in what was effectively a must-win game. The home fans tried to unsettle Liverpool’s defence by loudly booing Virgil Van Dijk every time he touched the ball, but it was the Saint’s defenders who cracked. After only five minutes Loris Karius was alert following a cross and quickly got the ball to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox tried to find Mo Salah, but it seemed as though Wesley Hoedt would clear the ball, unfortunately for the Dutchman, he couldn’t do so and Salah was able to nick it and lay it off to Roberto Firmino who slotted it past Alex McCarthy. Southampton seemed likely to equalise after a number of dangerous crosses, but just before half-time Firmino and Salah struck again after a beautiful backheel from the Brazilian put the Egyptian through for the second goal of the afternoon. The rest of the game was mostly uneventful in a nice change of pace for Liverpool fans who have become begrudgingly used to nail-biting finishes.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 8: One slightly unconvincing punch that could’ve ended badly early in the game was the only blight on another encouraging performance. Made himself big to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg one on one and pulled off another good save to deny James Ward-Prowse’s header. Had far less to do in the second-half, but dealt with everything that came to him comfortably. His distribution was also markedly more consistent than in previous games; a fact highlighted when he quickly released the Ox, causing the panic that led to Wesley Hoedt’s mistake. Another step in the right direction for the German ‘keeper.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: Targeted for most of the game as most attacks came down his side but the youngster stepped up to the plate impressively. Was understandably beaten in the air by Guido Carrillo early one, but luckily the header was driven straight at Karius. His only real mistake of the game came from an under-hit pass-back to Karius which put him under unnecessary pressure.

Joel Matip7: An awful miscontrol luckily led to nothing bar from embarrassment, but he quickly made amends by starting the move for the second goal. Was guilty of not dealing with a few crosses but was an essential part of the back-line that produced a much needed clean sheet.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: Booed mercilessly by the Southampton fans but remained calm and composed from the first minute until the last. Vocal throughout, he chastised his teammates when they were failing to deal with Southampton’s crosses, a true leader in both words and actions.

Andy Robertson – 8: Quiet for most of the first-half, but that was mainly due to most of Southampton’s attacks predominantly coming down the right. A more attacking minded fullback might’ve noticed this immediately and been more aggressive in pushing forward to support the front three. Perhaps having realised just that, he made a couple of good runs later in the half and was involved in the second goal. Put in a dangerous cross that almost saw Mane score a rare headed goal in the second-half.

Emre Can – 7: Mopped up well but didn’t offer too much aside from recycling possession. A loose touch led to him diving in on Oriol Romeu and picking up yet another yellow card. Can should be expected to do more to help win the midfield battle and impose himself onto games more regularly.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6: Extremely quiet first-half but could’ve had an assist if his teammates had been more alert to his excellent low ball to the back post. Bizarrely left the ball for Mane in the second half when he was in a far better position to shoot for goal himself. Was again unable to make his presence felt though, which was especially worrying considering his opponent, Mario Lemina, was battling illness.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 4: Did next to nothing in the first-half aside from his pass that was helped on by Hoedt before Liverpool’s first goal. He was also somewhat wasteful in possession again and was fairly hooked off by Klopp to give way to Milner. He did himself no favours if he wants a regular starting spot and may have to continue to settle for a rotational role.

Mo Salah – 9: The new King of the Kop showed great awareness and ability to set up the first goal. His movement was causing the Southampton defenders major headaches, and it paid off again after a lovely one-two with Firmino. He was harshly denied a chance earlier having been incorrectly judged to have handled the ball in the box. He then created another couple of opportunities for his teammates in the second-half and almost scored another. A truly extraordinary talent, hopefully he stays for many years to come.

Sadio Mane 6: Had a couple of half-chances in the first-half, but nothing he should be losing sleep over. Admirably is still not visibly allowing this ‘slump’ to affect his confidence as evidenced by an ambitious acrobatic attempt on goal. He was close to scoring with his head and almost assisted Firmino in the second half. Mane was only guilty of being wasteful once when he opted to shoot far too late when the chance to pass or shoot early was on. However, the biggest criticism of Mane has to stem from his lack of defensive awareness when he continually left Robertson exposed in the first-half. Surely a return to top form is just around the corner for the Senegalese winger though.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): Excellent first-time finish for the first goal, he then returned the favour to Salah with an unbelievable back-heel assist. The Brazilian was popping up everywhere on the pitch in both attacking and defensive situations; he’s a truly invaluable player to this Liverpool system. Had two penalty shouts in the first-half, one was correctly not given, but the second could’ve easily been given on another day despite Firmino going down very easily. Perhaps if he was wearing a Spurs jersey…

Subs

James Milner (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain- 61’) – 6: Brought on for the underwhelming Oxlade-Chamberlain to organise the team and help see out the game.

Adam Lallana (on for Firmino – 78’) – 5: Came on to give Firmino a well-earned rest ahead of a critical back-end of the season. Failed to score from seven yards when gifted a chance by Salah.

Dejan Lovren (on for Salah – 89′) – N/A: Brought on as extra security when the Reds had already firmly taken control of the game.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: A careful balance needed to be struck with the lineup: give as many players a rest as possible without jeopardising the result, and Klopp did so perfectly. His midfielders struggled in the first-half to take control of the game, and the defenders similarly weren’t coping with Southampton’s crosses. Seeing this, Klopp addressed both issues through his half-time talk and substitutions. He sensibly brought off the Ox after 60 minutes, a welcome sight in the sense that Klopp has often been criticised for leaving his substitutions too little time to make an impact.

Talking Points

Reds Finally See Out a Narrow Lead With Ease

In a somewhat uncharacteristic display, Liverpool were able to see out a game professionally, and in all honesty, they hardly looked like letting it slip. In stark contrast to previous games, Liverpool seemed to get more composed and in control as the game went on, it seemed inevitable that Southampton would be left goalless. Of course, the Saints had their chances in the first-half, and perhaps the Reds were arguably lucky to go into the break with a 2-0 lead. However, the second half showed a new side to this Liverpool team that hopefully is the beginning of a new trend. It will need to be if the Reds want to go on to win silverware in the near future.

Firmino and Salah Magic

Salah has been endlessly praised by all football fans this season despite the ludicrous notion that he would flop as he supposedly did at Chelsea. To be well and truly in the shout for top-goalscorer from a wide position is a remarkable achievement for any player, let alone one that also creates countless chances for his teammates and is not a regular set-piece taker. Firmino on the other hand rarely receives widespread praise, or at least not to the extent that Liverpool fans know he deserves. Surely this has to change sooner or later because regardless of Salah’s goals, it is Firmino that makes this team tick. Hopefully his continued underappreciation from those outside of the Liverpool fanbase will mean that no other teams try and persuade him to move on like his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.

Champions League Football

There’s little time to celebrate an excellent result as the focus now turns to Champions League football on two fronts. There’s the midweek fixture in Portugal against the dangerous Porto and the battle for the remaining three Champions League places rages on after that. The likes of Mignolet, Lovren, Moreno, Milner and Jordan Henderson will be fresh after a rest and raring to go if selected; and Joe Gomez could return along with Lallana. It is crucial to get a good result in the first-leg in order to gain progression into the quarter-finals. West Ham meanwhile will be able to sit back and plot as they seek to snatch a result in the next league game at Anfield. Manchester United and Arsenal both lost their respective fixtures but the race is far from over, and Liverpool will have to maintain extremely high standards to finish the season off strongly and secure a top-four finish.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 12/02/2018.

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Liverpool 2 – 2 Tottenham

Courageous Reds Denied by Questionable Refereeing

While not necessarily a disastrous result for either side, neither set of supporters would’ve been overjoyed with a draw before the game. Throughout the game though, you would forgive any fan for taking a draw at various stages, like a Leicester fan cashing out of a bet in late 2015/16. Liverpool took the lead in the third minute when Mo Salah pounced on an Eric Dier mistake. The Reds were teasing another high profile thrashing, but it was Spurs who went on to dominate the majority of the remaining minutes. Liverpool, uncharacteristically, sat deep and invited Spurs to advance, and despite a few hairy moments were able to repel most attacks. Victor Wanyama’s booming effort inevitably levelled the scores and seemed to crush any hopes of a Liverpool victory. A mistake by Dejan Lovren let an offside Harry Kane through who appeared to dive over a Loris Karius challenge to win a penalty. Karius saved the penalty to spare the Reds from conceding a goal that never should’ve stood anyway, but Salah went one better, scoring a magical goal in the 91st minute to give Liverpool a hard-fought if somewhat undeserved win. The officials weren’t finished though and belatedly awarded Erik Lamela a penalty after he theatrically fell to the ground from minimal contact by Virgil Van Dijk. Kane scored his 100th Premier League goal, much to Liverpool’s fury and heartbreak.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 8: A remarkable and admirable night from a ‘keeper under immense pressure where the only reasonable criticism of him could be his inconsistent distribution. Consistently dealt with Spurs’ attacks, making some crucial saves, including denying Heung-Min Son and Kane in one-on-one situations. Karius has received some criticism for punching the ball into the path of Wanyama for the first goal, but this critique is misguided. He couldn’t risk catching the ball as Lamela was waiting a yard away, ready to pounce on any mistake, and his punching clearance managed to clear the ball at least 25 yards away, it was just unfortunate it fell to a Tottenham player who caught the ball perfectly. His penalty heroics against Kane were unjustly undone by poor officiating. If Karius can maintain this level of form and confidence, he may retain his place in goal beyond this season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5: A surprise return to the first-team for the youngster, given Joe Gomez’s excellent form, but the academy player was virtually faultless throughout. TAA took a hefty challenge early from Ben Davies which might’ve warranted a yellow card, but the young lad didn’t shy away and responded with a few stern tackles of his own. His crossing was mostly superb and on another day could’ve had an assist to his name. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pick who Liverpool’s starting right-back should be.

Dejan Lovren – 7: Lovren produced another fine display and was capable in the air. He had to deal with a lot of pressure throughout the game, and despite one hiccup, was mostly steadfast. Unfortunately, the one mistake in question was quite poor and did lead to a penalty, but he has done enough to continue being picked as Van Dijk’s partner.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: Another player who had an excellent game undone by one error, only in Van Dijk’s case, there’s an argument to be made that it was instead the linesman who was at fault. For 99% of the game, he was a towering leader at the back and was displaying exactly why Jurgen Klopp paid so much for him. For the penalty, Lamela jumped in front of him from behind as he was swinging for the ball, and the big Dutchman even pulled out, but Lamela was successful in seeking minimal contact and threw himself to the ground.

Andy Robertson – 7: You could almost copy and paste analysis’ of Robertson’s performances over the past weeks, another solid game. The only criticism that could be attributed to him was that his crossing was unusually poor on the night. Did well to force Spurs to mostly focus their attacks down the right-hand-side as they were unprepared to allow Trippier to continue to be bested by our Robbo.

Jordan Henderson – 6: Henderson was deservedly picked to start this game after his strong showing against Huddersfield, but in hindsight, it may not have been the best decision. Through no fault of his own, Henderson was restricted to a simple game of sweeping up second balls and recycling possession. His lack of game time was his greatest downfall as his fatigue began to show and the likes of Dele Alli and Son took advantage of it. He also could’ve done more to contest the midfield battle as Tottenham spent large portions of the game parked in Liverpool’s half.

Emre Can – 6.5: Can fared slightly better than his captain in the midfield, but was similarly unable to halt the Spurs onslaught. It is puzzling that the midfield trio that was picked struggled so badly in this regard, given they are undoubtedly Liverpool’s best defensive-minded midfielders.

James Milner – 6: Milner was strangely selected as the most advanced of the midfield three, despite being considerably slower than the other two. Many were expecting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gini Wijnaldum to take his place for this game, but Milner hardly let his team down by anyone’s reckoning. His biggest downfall was that he, like Henderson faded as the game went on and Spurs were able to capitalise on that. He was also guilty of giving away some silly fouls in dangerous positions, unusual for the experienced England international.

Sadio Mane – 6: Poor Mane. He always seems so close to rediscovering his form, and yet it just eludes him. His pace and movement again caused problems throughout and he could’ve gone through on goal late in the first half if Salah’s pass was better. To be fair though, he also cost Salah a chance when his wayward pass took the wind out of the sails of a counter-attack in the second half. Desperately needs goals to help him push through this mental block he’s having.

Mo Salah – 8 (Man of the Match): Some players only stand up when everything is going right for them and their team, not Salah. He was able to score two vital goals for his team when they needed him most, and moreover, when he wasn’t at his individual best. For most of the game, barring the goals, Salah didn’t produce anything to worry the likes of Jan Vertonghen. His second goal will go down as one of the very best of the season, despite its status as a match winner being unfairly stripped away.

Roberto Firmino – 6: A rare subdued performance from Liverpool’s number 9. In fairness to him, he received minimal service and was reduced to doing the donkey’s work of chasing down Tottenham’s back line, but he seemed far from his best even when he did receive the ball.

Subs

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Mane – 64′) – 4: This time around The Ox was given plenty of time to make an impact, but failed to do so. He was incredibly wasteful in possession and arguably could’ve reacted quicker in the build-up to Wanyama’s equaliser.

Gini Wijnaldum (on for Henderson – 64′) – 4: Had the same amount of game time as The Ox but did even less of note. No impact.

Joel Matip (on for Milner – 78′) – 6: Came on to sure up Liverpool’s defence and did his job to a satisfactory degree despite the end result.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings 

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Klopp’s lineup and tactics could not be faulted for this game, at least not in the build-up to it. Through the benefit of hindsight, the argument could be made that he should’ve known that Henderson and Milner would not be able to keep up with the pace of such a fierce game given their lack of game time. When his side began to tire though, he swiftly brought on fresh legs to try and reclaim the midfield. He cannot be blamed for his substitutions inability to do so, and other individual errors, particularly from the referees. Was rightly furious at the officials during and after the game, but admirably managed to keep his cool and avoid retrospective action in the post-game press conference.

Talking Points

Diving Spurs and Bottling Officials

Of course, few Liverpool fans could seriously argue that Liverpool should have walked away with all three points given the respective performances of both sides. It’s unquestionable that Spurs dominated the majority of the game and that Liverpool were mostly on the back foot. That doesn’t change the fact though that Liverpool fought bravely and were ultimately undone by a lucky strike from a defensive-midfielder not known for his ability to shoot and an awful decision from a linesman. The referee, who had a better view of the incident, called for play to continue until the linesman appealed to overturn his decision. Even the officials can’t be entirely blamed for bottling the decisions. The Spurs players were consistently trying to deceive them including Kane, Lamela and Alli who was booked for blatant simulation. Knowing that they were continuously doing this and even more so in the desperate final stages, it is baffling that the linesman gave a decision like that in a situation that was 50/50 at best.

Calls For VAR

Whenever incidents of this nature occur in a high-profile game, legions of furious fans demanding VAR follow. I am, generally speaking, not one of them, as I believe the system has the potential to cause more problems that it solves, but it is difficult to hold that position when your own team has been so clearly wronged. Even former referees and former Spurs players, including Howard Webb and Jermaine Jenas respectively, questioned the decision when viewing the replay in the aftermath of the game. Perhaps after the season finishes, I will write a full article discussing the pros and cons of VAR, but it is not clear as of this moment whether VAR would’ve changed this particular decision. There was contact, albeit minimal, so despite common sense dictating an overturn of the decision, I’m not sure there would’ve been enough evidence to do so by the books.

The Road Ahead and Battle for Top-Four

As stated earlier, a draw against Tottenham is not a disaster by any means, but it does mean that Liverpool have reduced the margin for error somewhat. Instead of being four points clear of them, the Reds are only two points ahead with 12 games remaining. Spurs will not be slowing down as they seek to gain a crucial place in next year’s Champions League. Arsenal too will fancy their chances as they recruited well in January and produced an outstanding display on the weekend. Luckily though, Chelsea are in poor form and their heavy defeat against Watford sees Liverpool retain 3rd place, ahead by one point. Liverpool’s last-16 matches against FC Porto in the Champions League loom on the horizon as Klopp will need to start rotating his squad to achieve the best results. Liverpool’s upcoming league games include Southampton (Away), West Ham (Home), Newcastle (Home), followed by another fixture which could shape the top four, Manchester United (Away).

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 06/02/2018.

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Huddersfield 0 – 3 Liverpool : REDemption

Reds Bounce Back to Claim an Important Win at Huddersfield

After a season of tremendous highs and humbling lows, Liverpool were able to record an 18 game unbeaten streak in all competitions. The roller coaster run was punctuated by an incredible win at home against undefeated Manchester City, followed by a weak display and defeat against relegation favourites Swansea. Another defeat against West Brom sent the Reds tumbling out of the FA Cup and fuelled the fires of uncertainty amongst the fan base. Victory against Huddersfield might have been expected a couple of weeks ago, but in light of recent events, it is an important and impressive result. It was a mature and robust performance, without necessarily showcasing the spectacular side that this team is so often capable of.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: The German has recently been promoted as the undisputed first-choice ‘keeper by Jurgen Klopp ahead of Simon Mignolet. The decision has divided fans, but performances like this will do wonders for both Karius’ and the fans’ confidence. He didn’t face a particularly high volume of chances but was virtually faultless throughout. Calm under the high ball, commanding from the back and most importantly composed when under fire. A big save early on against Laurent Depoirte set the tone for a bright display.

Joe Gomez – 7: Another start for the youngster, and another sound defensive performance. He could’ve perhaps been more adventurous going forward, but his solidity at the back was immensely appreciated. It’s hard to see how Nathaniel Clyne will get back into the team once he regains fitness, and that may not be such a bad thing given how impressive both Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been this season.

Joel Matip – 7: The big Cameroonian has been a frustrating player to watch since his arrival on a free transfer from Schalke. Too often Matip has been just as culpable in making simple errors as his teammates whom he was meant to replace. However, against Huddersfield Matip showed again his more controlled side. He combined well with Lovren, covering for the Croation when he charged towards the ball. Questions will still be asked though about whether he is the right man to play beside Virgil Van Dijk when he returns.

Dejan Lovren – 8: Lovren at times has been possibly the most hated man at Liverpool. Consistently, and often justly, scapegoated by fans as being the worst offender in a suspect defensive line. Against Huddersfield, quite the opposite was true. Lovren was not only the best defender on the night but also took on the most responsibility, especially in the air. It would not be unreasonable to argue that Lovren, not Matip, should be the one partnering Van Dijk. Only time can tell.

Andy Robertson – 8: Admittedly, when Robertson was first signed from Hull, I was underwhelmed to say the least. I was more interested in foreign wing-backs, players who would cost an arm and a leg. What could a Scotsman from a relegated side possibly have to offer the mighty Liverpool? I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover the answer to that question is – plenty!  The fans have sincerely warmed to the energetic left-back, and his performance against Huddersfield only heightened those feelings. Always involved at both ends of the pitch, it was his delivery that lead to the opening goal. Robertson has well and truly nailed on the left-back position as his own ahead of James Milner and a resurgent Alberto Moreno.

Jordan Henderson – 8: A fantastic night for the Liverpool captain on his return. Henderson hadn’t played since before Christmas during the draw away to Arsenal. Instead of appearing rusty though, the skipper was usual, energetic self, and was the catalyst for most of the positive moments going forward. He won back the ball time and time again and correctly chose to keep play moving quickly to exploit the staggered Huddersfield line. Continued captain’s performances like these will prove to be invaluable in the coming weeks and months.

Emre Can – 9: Can is another Liverpool player who leaves fans in awe and annoyance on a seemingly weekly basis. As such, after the abysmal effort he put in against West Brom there were a few raised eyebrows when his name was included on the team sheet; particularly as Gini Wijnaldum had missed out after playing no worse than Can. Klopp’s decision proved to be prophetic though as Can had the kind of game that reminded fans of his enormous talent, much like he had done against Manchester City. A cracking goal and a penalty were his rewards, and if Sadio Mane had been more prolific, Can could’ve had a couple of assists as well.

James Milner – 6: A surprise inclusion on the night, but was typically reliable throughout, void of any significant mistakes nor creative contributions. Nevertheless, Milner was an essential cog in the midfield machine that allowed the more attacking-minded players to cause the damage that they eventually did. A handy player to have in the squad, but surely wouldn’t be picked in anybody’s strongest XI.

Sadio Mane – 5: Another disappointing night for Mane as his run of poor form continues. Mane is a player that is searching for both goals and the confidence that come with them, but they just aren’t coming as easily as he had grown accustomed to. Some poor execution and decision making didn’t help matters, but to the winger’s credit, he’s still hungry enough to keep trying. His confidence hasn’t dipped so severely that he is entirely unwilling to take any risks, so surely his return to form is just a good 90 minutes away.

Mohamed Salah – 6: For a player who can be so devastatingly dynamic at times, it wasn’t his most electrifying night. It could be argued that because he was occupying Huddersfield’s wide defenders, he sacrificed his own return for the good of the team, rather than selfishly overcrowding the middle. However, he certainly wasn’t as involved as he would’ve liked to have been. Converted his penalty to bring his tally to 19 EPL goals for the season.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): Is there another player so desperately underrated in the EPL as Firmino? Adored by the fans, players and staff of Liverpool for his tenacity, selflessness and overall quality; as far as I am concerned, let him keep flying under the radar. His movement caused the Huddersfield defenders countless headaches all night, and his defensive contributions allowed them no rest. Rewarded himself with a sublime finish to cap off another Man of the Match display. It’s hard to imagine a Liverpool side at the moment without the brilliant Brazilian leading it from the front.

Subs

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Salah – 83′) – N/A: Brought on to help see the game out, and did so competently.

Gini Wijnaldum (on for Henderson – 83′) – N/A: Same as above.

Dominic Solanke (on for Firmino – 89′) – N/A: No time to make an impact.

Unused Subs : Simon Mignolet, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Danny Ings 

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Some of Klopp’s selections seemed bizarre before kick-off, even with some forced changes due to injuries and illnesses. These doubts proved fruitless however as Klopp’s tactics and men were able to deal with the physical and dangerous Huddersfield players with relative ease. After two mediocre displays in a row, this was precisely the type of result and performance that Klopp would’ve demanded from his players. Again though, Klopp’s timing for his substitutes seemed somewhat puzzling. Why couldn’t the likes of Solanke or Ings be brought on after Salah had wrapped the game up in the 78th minute? There was little risk of losing the game from there, and young Solanke would’ve benefited far greater from the 15+ minutes he would’ve received than the 1 minute he actually got.

Talking Points

Emre – Can He Stay or Should He Go?

The future of Can is still up in the air, with no indication yet on whether he will re-sign with Liverpool or leave in the summer on a free transfer to favourites Juventus, his home-country of Germany, or even wildcards Manchester City. Should Liverpool be moving Heaven and Earth to sign him on a long-term contract as some fans suggest? It is a very difficult question to answer. Take the Emre Can who dominated Manchester City, and it’s a definite and resounding yes. Take the Emre Can who was anonymous versus Swansea, and it doesn’t seem like such a loss. I believe that Can is a perfect example of the bigger picture at Liverpool. Do we wish to keep banking on potential? Or do we expect a higher degree of consistency from our players? In Can’s case, I think he’s shown enough to warrant offering a new, reasonable deal, but nothing more. Glimpses of greatness are simply not enough, and the longer this saga drags out, the more likely it is that he will not be around next season.

Life Without Phil

The biggest story to come out of this season at Liverpool is undoubtedly the departure of our little magician, Philippe Coutinho. Many fans dreaded the inevitable day that he would be snatched up by one of the big Spanish clubs and were especially devastated to lose him in the middle of the season. However, despite the criticism that Liverpool has received for this, it was evident to those who were reading the situation clearly and coldly: Coutinho was never going to play for our club again, whether we liked it or not. When Liverpool toppled the giants of Manchester City, many thought that we would be fine without him, but his absence will be felt far greater in games such as the Swansea loss. Games where we need a little bit of magic to unlock stubborn, 10-man defences.

Transfer Window Slamming Shut

Losing Coutinho was offset somewhat by the long overdue arrival of Van Dijk, but many fans still feel that we are in need of an attacker to directly replace the creative maestro. Names such as Riyad Mahrez, Malcolm and Thomas Lemar were thrown around on twitter and rumours pages but they never seemed to be players the club were pursuing that desperately in this window. It would appear that Klopp is content with what he has and will only seek to bring in a replacement during the summer. Only time will tell if this stance will ultimately cost Liverpool by the end of the season or not.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 31/01/2018.

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