Liverpool enjoyed an excellent afternoon beating Stoke 4-1 at Anfield – a game that provided a number of positive talking points.
Jurgen Klopp’s side prepared for Borussia Dortmund’s arrival in near-perfect fashion as they hammered Mark Hughes’ Potters at Anfield.
Alberto Moreno’s fine strike put the Reds ahead before Bojan’s header restored parity for the away side for all of 10 minutes, with Daniel Sturridge netting to give Liverpool a deserved half-time lead, only after Peter Crouch saw a header ruled out for offside.
Half-time substitute Divock Origi added gloss to the score-line with a second half brace, giving Klopp’s side the dominant win their play warranted.
Here are the talking points from the game.
Striking Competition Hotting-up
Klopp said competition between strikers is “the best situation you can have” in the build up to this game, and he has exactly what he has following an excellent afternoon for his strikers.
Replacing midweek hero Origi in attack, Sturridge returned to produce a fine goal-scoring display of his own, looking sharp in his movement and technical play before notching the Reds’ second with a rare header after superb work from Sheyi Ojo.
And joined for the second 45 by Origi who replaced Ojo, the Belgian – who showed his starting credentials after being preferred in Dortmund – took no time to stake his claim to start in the crunch second-leg with a blitzing impact – also scoring a fine header before netting with a dangerous cross that beat everyone.
The pair looked sharp playing together once again – as they did at Southampton last time they started in tandem – and they offer Klopp an exciting strike duo to call upon.
Added to the classy option of Roberto Firmino, Klopp has a welcome array of options at his disposal, and thus a big call to make with who leads the attack against Dortmund on Thursday night.
Perhaps, after the promise showed, it could be the evening to unleash Origi and Sturridge together…
Klopp’s Perfect Selection
Prior to the game Klopp announced changes would be forthcoming, and the Reds boss was true to his word with a much changed selection at Anfield.
On the same afternoon Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel made eight adjustments to his XI for their Revier derby 2-2 draw with Schalke, Klopp followed his successors’ lead by making seven changes with one eye on the make-or-break tie.
Though two were enforced with Jordan Henderson and Emre Can missing, making a further five was a perfect move from the Reds boss, and he reaped the rewards with the a fresh and hungry team disposing of the Potters while key men were preserved ahead of the German side’s arrival.
Bouyed by the win and with fresh first choice picks to introduce, the Reds will be fresh and ready to claim a vital result on Thursday night as they seek to reach the Europa League semi-finals.
Youngsters Impress on Premier League Debuts
An all too rare routine win at Anfield was marked with memorable full Premier League debuts of Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo, who both impressed on their big stage bows.
The former provided a composed and combative figure yet again at the base of the Reds three man centre, showing good confidence to be the man to start play from deep while excelling in his defensive duties – largely nullifying the threat of Bojan while battling with powerhouse Gianneli Imbula.
Meanwhile, fellow debutant Ojo was rewarded for his impressive form for the Under-21s, and though only playing 45 minutes, the 18-year-old translated his talents to Klopp’s first XI, grabbing a superb assist by roasting Xherdan Shqiri and providing a delightful stand-up for Sturridge to head home.
It was an excellent afternoon on collective and individual notes for the young duo, who showed their readiness to feature in the remainder of the Reds league campaign.
Reds Midfield Dominate
Key to picking up the confidence-boosting victory was the wholehearted and dominant display of the Reds’ midfield trio.
It was a selection that caused intrigue as to how they would perform without main-stays, Henderson or Can, but Stewart alongside the experience of Joe Allen and James Milner – who Klopp felt had his best game during his time in charge – quashed any fears with an commanding display.
The trio were aggressive and tenacious in their off-ball work, not allowing the away midfield to enjoy an influence on proceedings, and their quick use of the ball, particularly in Allen’s case, allowed for the Reds to spring quick attacks.
With the security Stewart provided to his back four, Milner enjoyed the freedom to support the attack from midfield, from which he claimed two assists with clever, quick-thinking to tee-up Moreno and a pin-point cross for Origi.
All did their job exactly how Klopp would have wanted prior to Lucas’ introduction at 4-1, and the German boss can be delighted with the efforts from his dominant midfield trio.
Set Piece Softness Returning
In a game of many positives, one negative came with the return of Liverpool’s softness at set-pieces.
Denied what would have been a priceless victory in Dortmund by switching off at a corner to allow Mats Hummels to head home, the Reds were undone for the second time in as many games, allowing the smallest player on the pitch, Bojan, to glance home unmarked at the Kop end.
And Klopp’s side almost paid the price for a second time, with Ryan Shawcross heading just wide of the far post at 2-1 after being afforded a free header, with organisation and concentration severely lacking.
Having steadily improved and not conceded from a set-piece for two months it’s been a worrying drop in standards set, and something that cannot afford to be repeated for a third game in a row on Thursday night.
LIVERPOOL 4-1 STOKE
- REPORT: Origi double as Reds thrash Potters
- REACTIONS: “Dominant performance”
- RATINGS: Lots of solid performances
- TALKING POINTS: Youngsters impress, lots of positives
- KLOPP: Surprised at whole complete the performance was
- WATCH: Klopp’s post-match press conference