Liverpool returned to winning ways against a struggling Huddersfield side, with a much-improved performance after back-to-back defeats.
Huddersfield 0-3 Liverpool
Goals: Can 26′, Firmino 45’+1, Salah 78′(pen)
Can do attitude
He might not be here much longer so get all the puns around his name in while you can.
For a player who’s often accused of having his head elsewhere, or not giving his all due to his contract situation, the German certainly doesn’t show it on the pitch.
He gave 100% here and his performance was punctuated by some highlight reel play.
The first of which was his unstoppable right-footed half-volley which he blasted into the bottom corner. It was an outstanding goal, albeit with the aid of a deflection – but the type which he seems to enjoy scoring.
He went on to set up Mane for a good chance in the second period, and also won the penalty which saw Salah make it three.
His contract situation isn’t ideal, but his manager is happy that the player is giving his all regardless. He should use him while he Can…
Defending and goalkeeping spotted among Liverpool ranks
Observers of this game were treated to the rare spectacle of a Liverpool goalkeeper saving a shot.
As Chris Lowe sent the ball into the box there was an uneasy familiarity about the move as Laurent Depoitre got his big Belgian boot on the end of it but perhaps in a turn around in fortunes, it was straight at Liverpool’s No 1, Loris Karius.
Onlookers also witnessed a reasonably good performance from Dejan Lovren, and these days reasonably good is enough to see a player hailed as the new Maldini in this uncertain, often calamitous rearguard.
Joel Matip, meanwhile, could be the surprise contender to be the one who loses his place to Virgil Van Dijk, and the Dutchman could line up with fellow ex-Southampton defender Lovren if the clubs best defender so far this season, Ragnar Klavan, remains sidelined.
Lovren won 7 aerial duels, and handled the bulky Depoitre fairly well. It was by no means an outstanding display from the Croatian, or the German behind him between the posts who also passed the ball and swept up well. But it was an improvement, which is good enough for now.
Klopp’s Industrial Revolution
In a town which was at the heart of England’s Industrial Revolution, it was perhaps fitting that the Liverpool manager started a midfield of Can, Henderson, and Milner.
The workhorses of the side produced a good midfield display with the German in particular impressing with four key passes, a belter of a goal, and an assist in the form of a penalty won.
Can’s platform to play was provided by his English sidekicks, Henderson and Milner, who both looked comfortable in this West Yorkshire environment.
The captain and vice-captain returned to the side after spending some time on the sidelines or on the bench, and Klopp was pleased with their contribution.
Having quipped before the game that Milner was only playing because he’s from Yorkshire, after the game the manager told the assembled media to “please, write the message: Jordan Henderson is a very good football player. If somebody doesn’t see his value, what can I do?”
So there you go.
If the same trio start against Spurs they will be in for a much bigger test, but for now Klopp is happy in this Keita-less wonderland.
While Firmino and Salah both enjoyed goalscoring performances, Mane couldn’t find the back of the net with two headed chances in the second half.
The Senegalese had also struggled in the first half, regularly losing the ball, failing to connect with his passes and losing his one on one duels.
He came out of that first period with a pass accuracy of just 67%, and though he did manage to recover some of that in the second period his missed chances were disappointing.
He hit his first headed chance straight at Jonas Lossl with his second, a diving effort, flying wide from Can’s pinpoint cross.
It’s another game to add to a poor run of form for the winger who has a history of struggles during the winter months.
Even though there is no African Cup of Nations this year he is still absent in January, but a revived Mane in the coming months could make all the difference to Liverpool’s season.
Tottenham test ahead
In just five days time the transfer window will have slammed shut, or in Liverpool’s case creaked to a close, and the Reds will be facing top four rivals Spurs at Anfield.
It will be a chance to recover some home form after crashing out of the FA Cup at the hands of West Brom, and though the chances of winning a trophy this season are slim, they’ll now need to do everything possible to make sure they finish in the top four for a second season in a row.
Tactically the side could be set up to perform well in the Champions League, but it’s imperative that they are in the competition again next season.
Sunday’s game against direct top four rivals will be big one, and the players go into it on a high after creating plenty of chances and scoring a few good goals.
Klopp will have some decisions to make regarding team selection, especially in defence if Van Dijk is fit again.