11th December – Liverpool top Group E after victory in Salzburg


Never in doubt, was it?

Apart from the end-to-end madness, Mohamed Salah turning into prime Marouane Chamakh and Virgil van Dijk becoming a literal wall, it was easy as pie for Jurgen Klopp’s men in Austria.

Before the match the hype was all on Erling Haaland. 28 goals this season, including eight in the Champions League and at least one in every match so far, surely it would be impossible for a side who hadn’t kept a clean sheet in the competition to hold him off.

Beginning with the home side on the front foot, Alisson was tested immediately in the Liverpool goal by Hwang Hee-Chan and Takumi Minamino, who both scored at Anfield as Salzburg fell short.

Van Dijk then denied a steaming surge from Haaland, showing electric pace anomalous to others his stature.

Klopp’s varied route one style nearly worked once again, with Dejan Lovren picking out Salah for the Reds’ first chance of the game. His effort was parried away by Cican Stankovic who started the match impeccably.

Salah then found himself one-on-one with the Austrian ‘keeper, with acres of space after being set-up by Naby Keita. The Egyptian aimed for the near post and dragged wide – the miss of his career, and it could’ve been costly.

As the second-half began and the entire audience questioning how it was 0-0, Salah then fluffed his lines once again, spooning an effort over the crossbar before failing to round the ‘keeper to tap into an empty net.

Two questions: Where is the real Mo Salah? And/or how much have the home side paid him? Who knows!

For the second time this week, Klopp had to make the unexpected change to replace Dejan Lovren, with Joe Gomez replacing him due to injury.

And minutes later the Reds found the breakthrough. Interchange between Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mane resulted in the Senegalese winger one-on-one. Following the rush from Stankovic, he crossed to another former Salzburg man in Naby Keita to nod Liverpool ahead – and you’d be crazy to say it hadn’t been coming.

Just one hundred seconds later we had the answer to our question. It seems like the real Salah arrived as soon as the oncoming herd of defenders and ‘keeper galloped towards him.

After rounding two, Salah had the near-impossible task of finishing on his right foot, from the right hand side of the box, whilst running at immense speed. Especially after missing chances our grandmothers would score, no-one backed Mo. But that’s what he does.

With the greatest and finest of all finishes, the Reds doubled their lead and closed out the game from there.

Liverpool are the first side to stop Salzburg from scoring this season, alongside qualifying as group winners alongside Napoli, who beat Genk 4-o. The hosts drop into the Europa League, but will be a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure.

Jurgen Klopp:

“Of course there are limits to what we can achieve. We have to work hard to achieve what we want. We wanted to move on to the knockout stage, that was important.

“It wasn’t our plan to be leader in the Premier League in December but it’s great to be there, but we need to use everything and work very hard.

“There are limits, but if the boys play like that it makes it easier for us. But they have to be ready and try to achieve their goals like they did tonight.”

Jesse Marsch:

“They played a good game against a strong team. We were close, but it was also a step too far. But it is incredible to see the development of this team and at times we were better.

“It is good that we have the Europa League because it will provide us with some good opponents in the spring,”

Stonadge’s Man of the Match: Virgil Van Dijk

This may have been the best I’ve seen Van Dijk play this season.

The strength, pace, defensive nous, passing, awareness. How many more attributes could I list?

His ability to cope with Haaland, step out and lead the offside trap perfectly to allow nothing for the dangerous Salzburg side is nothing but overwhelmingly commendable.

Best centre-back in the world.

Salzburg: Stankovic; Kristensen, Onguene, Ulmer, Wober; Junuzovic (Daka 68), Mwepu, Szoboszlai (Ashimeru 90); Minamino, Hwang, Haaland (Okugawa 75)

Unused Substitutes: Vallci, Prevljak, Ramalho, Coronel

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren (Gomez 53), Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita (Origi 87), Wijnaldum, Henderson; Salah, Mane, Firmino (Milner 75)

Unused Substitutes: Adrian, Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Jones


About Author

Sports Journalism student, streamer at LFC Transfer Room, Anfield Agenda. Liverpool fan with a particular interest in Welsh, Youth, and African football.

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