Reds’ focus praised as Mane becomes “the real fulcrum of Jurgen Klopp’s side” – Media on Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace

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The media praised Liverpool’s focus and hailed Sadio Mane as the Reds new talisman after his match-winning display in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The Reds’ Premier League campaign is up and running after grinding out a first three points against Frank de Boer’s Eagles.

Sadio once again proved to be Liverpool’s ‘Mane man’, with the Senegalese firing home the winner on 73 minutes by finishing a move he initially started.

It was certainly not a vintage display from Jurgen Klopp’s men, but considering the changes made at a tough stage in the season, digging deep to claim all the points was certainly a job well done.

Here’s how the watching journalists assessed events at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Certain reporters praised Liverpool for grinding out an important win despite not being at their best and while missing some key players.

The Guardian’s Andy Hunter felt victory was deserved and praised Liverpool’s “focus” amid the distraction of Barcelona’s pursuit of Philippe Coutinho:

Liverpool’s first league win of the campaign and first home win over Palace in four years was merited.

Their focus was admirable too given that Barcelona’s persistent pursuit of Coutinho produced a third bid for the injured Brazil international, and third rejection from Liverpool, on the eve of the game.

This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett noted how important victory was to keep close to pace-setting rivals:

If the Reds have top-four ambitions, and indeed hopes far beyond that, they can’t afford to fall behind the leading pack so early on in the season.

[…]

Going into those fixtures only on two points, while the opposition sit on four or six, would only add to the pressure the Reds play under—but Mane’s goal ensured it’ll be far closer than that when the Reds lock horns with their rivals.

The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce was among those to award the Reds’ some rare praise for a better defensive display:

Defensively, it was a big improvement after the uncertainty and indecision which dogged the Reds in the opening two matches.

[…]

Of course tougher tests lie ahead but this was a welcome step forward as they dealt with everything thrown at them.

After seeing Mane continue his electric start to the season with a match-winning display, reporters heaped praise on the Senegalese who some feel is proving himself as Liverpool’s real talisman.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 19, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Richard Jolly, writing for the Express, thinks Mane is showing why he – and not Coutinho – is Liverpool’s main man:

The Brazilian could become the second most expensive footballer ever. Yet just when Liverpool looked like they needed the injured midfielder yesterday, Sadio Mane ensured a weakened team won without him.

They are different types of players, but Mane is deadlier. His fifth goal in as many games was his 15th in 29 league matches for Liverpool. He is the winger who outscores most strikers. He showed his powers as a poacher when a sorry stalemate beckoned.

Pearce feels while Coutinho’s absence is damaging, the Reds simply aren’t the same without Mane:

Here was proof that the real fulcrum of Jurgen Klopp‘s side is happy, settled and hell-bent on delivering glory to Anfield.

[…]

Liverpool simply aren’t the same team without Mane – his stint at the Africa Cup of Nations and his time on the treatment table underlined that last season.

Some reporters felt the Reds’ display was below-par and boasted some worryingly familiar traits – while there was also concern over the lack of midfield creativity and attacking balance.

Writing for Goal.com, Melissa Reddy thought the performance “fell far short”:

Despite the result, the performance still fell far short of the fluid, assertive and exhilarating showing expected from the Merseysiders.

The Liverpool Echo’s Kristian Walsh noted how the Reds’ struggled again facing a deep defence:

If there is no space for Liverpool to exploit, their play often looks laboured. It was a problem in the second half of the previous campaign, and looks to be the situation once more.

[…]

That the majority of their chances came with the goal lead as Palace pushed for an equaliser – centre back Scott Dann moved up front for the closing stages – highlights where the Reds’ attacking strengths lie, and where they must still improve.

ESPN’s David Usher bemoaned Liverpool’s slow first-half:

The first half was rather flat and the tempo was too slow. That changed after the break and in the end the scoreline should have been more convincing, but Liverpool need to start games at a higher pace, particularly at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2017: Liverpool's James Milner during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

On the struggles for midfield creativity, Matchett wrote:

In truth, other than sideways recycling and helping to aggressively challenge and quickly win back the ball, the midfield was nowhere near dynamic enough off the ball, nor technically helpful on it.

The trio produced just one key pass between them in the whole match. Robertson had three, Gomez had two.

The Mail’s Jack Gaughan was among a few reporters who felt this highlighted Coutinho’s importance:

His importance to Klopp’s side is immeasurable, as evidenced against Palace.

[…]

Time and again Liverpool were crying out for ingenuity in the final third, monopolising possession but with little end product. Coutinho’s presence severely lacked for much of the afternoon against a defence picked apart by Huddersfield Town last week.

On the struggle for offensive balance, Walsh, interestingly, believes the Reds’ attack “doesn’t work” when Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino both play:

There can be no blame attached to the individuals, but the system does not work.

[…]

Liverpool’s attack always works best on instinct, with Firmino the most obvious example of that.

[…]

It must be Jurgen Klopp‘s instinct to not use it for much longer. Sturridge’s departure after an hour would suggest so, as would how Firmino improved when moved central.

Reporters discussed Klopp’s decision to make five changes to his starting XI, with some journalists assessing it as an unnecessary gamble while others praised the German for rotating.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates the 1-0 victory during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Indepedant’s Simon Hughes was unimpressed by the lack of quality among those entering the lineup:

If this is a reflection of the quality beyond his first XI, there are causes for concern.

Pearce thought Klopp took a “gamble” but it was one that worked:

But for Klopp, this was a significant triumph as his gamble paid off.

[…]

Making five changes was risky but Klopp’s faith was rewarded as those on the fringes stepped up and delivered.

Oppositely, Matchett thought the boss was right to rotate the team:

While the Reds can’t afford to see the Premier League as a secondary competition, Wednesday’s second leg against Hoffenheim has far-reaching consequences so it was right for Klopp to make changes.

Hughes, also felt Klopp’s selection made for a “structurally flawed” team:

This was a structurally flawed Liverpool team. Jürgen Klopp chose two centre halves in Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan who are not comfortable in possession. This meant Jordan Henderson and James Milner had to drop deep to start Liverpool’s play from the back and they are midfielders known for their industry rather than their creativity.

Subsequently, the real threat in this Liverpool team – the attack – were often found seeking possession near the half-way line, far away from the area of the pitch where they can cause the most damage.

Meanwhile, Pearce thought Klopp’s substitutions made a crucial difference:

What was still lacking was a real creative spark from the centre of midfield but Klopp’s substitutions made up for that shortcoming.

He went for broke with the introduction of Mohamed Salah and debutant Solanke and that duo helped give Liverpool the attacking thrust which led to Palace buckling under the strain.

Reporters offered verdicts on who impressed and who struggled at Anfield, with plenty of praise for Andy Robertson after an excellent debut.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2017: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reddy was impressed with the left-back’s attacking influence:

Another player who will have impressed the German was Robertson. Having been excluded from the first two matchday squads, he was Liverpool’s creator-in-chief on his competitive debut for the club.

[…]

Signed from Hull City for an initial £8 million this summer, the 23-year-old was the pick of Klopp’s XI during the opening spell and continued to be lively in the second half.

Hunter praised Robertson’s crossing and feels it will be a useful attribute:

Liverpool’s £10m summer signing from Hull City adapted well on his full debut. The quality of his crossing immediately stood out and will prove a potent asset for Klopp’s team this season and they should have capitalised swiftly.

ESPN’s Glenn Price feels Robertson has improving to do, but should jump ahead of Alberto Moreno in the left-back order:

Defensively, there are improvements to be made. He was often found to be lagging behind Liverpool’s other three other defenders when pushing out, playing Palace players onside. But it was a performance that may put him ahead of Alberto Moreno in the left-back pecking order.

Meanwhile, the Mirror’s Alex Smith thought Daniel Sturridge wasted his chance to shine:

The England front man was given a rare opportunity to impress and he failed to take it.

[…]

Sturridge’s finishing is not where it was four seasons ago, and his movement is beginning to look a bit lacking.

Finally, Matchett criticised another “disappointingly quiet” display from Wijnaldum, and feels the Dutchman could lose his place:

At the start of 17/18, however, he has been disappointingly quiet, uninvolved and not at all central to build-up play, in each of the three games.

[…]

The Dutchman’s place in the side is one of those most at risk when everybody is fit—or if new signings arrive before September—and for his own sake as much as anything else, he needs to rediscover top form fast.

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