A superb second half saw Liverpool eventually stroll to a 3-0 win against newly promoted Huddersfield, as Jurgen Klopp got one over on his best mate.
Liverpool 3-0 Huddersfield Town
Premier League, Anfield
October 28, 2017
Goals: Sturridge 50′, Firmino 58′, Wijnaldum 75′
Second half success
Improved second half performances have been a rarity for Liverpool this season. They’ve often needed a turnaround in the latter stages of games during this campaign, but one has rarely come.
While the three goals in the second period of this game may have started with a slice of luck, as Huddersfield right-back Tommy Smith inadvertently headed the ball into the path Daniel Sturridge, the performance fully merited the trio of goals which eventually came.
They dominated the midfield, but much of the danger came from an uncharacteristic willingness to play balls over the top when necessary and, perhaps even more surprisingly, from set pieces.
There was also more desire to close down in midfield and force mistakes. The team were on a high after the goal rather than tentatively looking to protect a lead, which saw confidence surge throughout the team.
Sturridge poaches the all-important opener
Sturridge came back into the side having not started a league game since the 1-1 draw with Newcastle at the start of the month.
He only had one goal to his name prior to today, and when he hit a half-chance into the ground from Milner’s cross it looked like he might be in for another off day.
But when presented with a golden chance to give his side the lead Sturridge showed great composure and technique to lift the ball over Huddersfield ‘keeper Jonas Lossl.
It was a vital moment in the game, as another scuffed shot or poor decision would have meant the scores remained at 0-0 and the slog continued.
As it was the goal opened up the game slightly and allowed Liverpool the freedom to go on and increase their lead.
Klavan into the mix at the last minute
Dejan Lovren may have only lasted just over half an hour in the defeat at Spurs, but in this game he didn’t even take to the pitch even though he had retained his place in the first draft of the starting eleven.
The Croatian centre back picked up a thigh injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Ragnar Klavan.
The Estonian stand-in had a difficult start to the game, as might be expected from a player who hasn’t seen much game time this season, and who was called in to start at the last minute.
But he improved as the game went on, looking increasingly composed on the ball and more used to the attacking threats posed by the opposition.
“It was very diffciult for him,” said Klopp after the game.
“Two minutes before the game, as a player as a sub you are not in the mood to start, and we could see Raggy needed a bit of time to get into the game.”
But once he did he looked solid, and now gives his manager a choice to make for the next game, regardless of whether Lovren is fit or not.
Klopp vs Wagner
“David Wagner, he’s better than Klopp,” sand the Huddersfield fans in the first half in support of the German boss who oversaw their miracle promotion to the Premier League.
Much of the build up to this game was based around the first meeting between two managers who have been friends since their playing days at Mainz.
Despite the gulf between the two teams when it comes to resources, Wagner’s side came into the game on the back of an impressive win against Manchester United, while Liverpool were struggling after their embarrassing defeat at Spurs.
Huddersfield set up defensively, as you might expect, looking to use centre forward Laurent Depoitre as the out ball in a 4-1-4-1 formation. They held Liverpool for much of the game as Klopp’s side found it difficult to break them down in open play.
The chances eventually came through mistakes from Wagner’s side rather than any problem with their defensive unit as a whole.
“Only their shot conversion and the defending of set-pieces is not outstanding,” said Wagner of his opponents before the game, but this would come back to haunt him as Liverpool scored from a set piece of their own, and had numerous chances from corners to add to this tally.
Salah on the spot
After scoring the penalty during the most recent international break which saw Egypt through to the World Cup, Klopp said in his subsequent press conference that Salah would be on spot kick duty for the Reds from now on.
“I would say at the moment he’s our number one penalty taker! That pressure was really big. He did really well!”
When it came down to choosing Liverpool’s penalty taker, many would have though that the responsibility would fall on last season’s taker, James Milner, but Salah stepped up showing that Klopp’s words weren’t merely a press conference quip.
He couldn’t repeat his national team heroics for his club, however, as he sent a poorly hit effort just to the left of Lossl and at an ideal height. It was neither down the middle nor in the corner, and any keeper diving the right way would have saved it.
The summer signing missed a couple of chances in open play, too, and will not have done anything to change the mind of those who criticise his finishing ability despite his good scoring record.
A GOAL FROM A CORNER
Liverpool scored a goal from a corner! Seriously.
They almost scored from another, twice, after going 3-0 up too. Milner’s deliveries were good, Matip’s headers were unfortunately wayward.
The improvement from set-pieces marked a general improvement in the ‘basics’ of the game on the day.