After Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Leeds, the media praised Mohamed Salah, criticised the defence and explained how the opening day showed how tough it will be to retain the title.
The Reds came out on top in a thrilling battle of the champions at Anfield to start the title attack with three points.
Virgil van Dijk’s header and a hat-trick in a sensational display from Salah was just enough to hold off a highly impressive Leeds side, who managed to peg the Reds back three times.
In trademark fashion, Liverpool found a route to victory despite producing a mixed display, and Jurgen Klopp will be delighted to have opened with a win in a tough first fixture.
Here’s the key analysis from the media on the exhilarating opening win.
The media enjoyed the thrilling contest but felt it gave an indication on how challenging it will be to retain the title…
The Mail’s Oliver Holt labelled the match “one of the best first day games” ever seen as he lauded the fearlessness of both sides:
At Anfield on Saturday, we were privileged to see one of the best first day games of any English football season.
There was no timidity, just daring. Liverpool, the champions, and newly-promoted Leeds went at it like two of the great clubs of the English game and it was beautiful.
Writing for The National, Richard Jolly reserved praise for Leeds for their ambition and attacking approach which contributed to a brilliant fixture:
It was testament to the promoted club’s attacking intent and Bielsa’s considerable ambition that they had the ball in the Liverpool net five times, even if, as both sides had two goals disallowed, Illan Meslier had to retrieve it from his own net six times.
The breakneck pace of both sides reflected the two managers’ philosophies. It was breathless stuff, with high defensive lines and difficulties at the back for both sides contributing to the excitement.
Neil Jones, for Goal, explained how the contest illustrated just how tough it will be for the Reds to retain the title as opponents will now raise their game against the champions:
If Liverpool wanted a game to illustrate just how difficult it will be to retain their league crown, then this was it.
There was widespread adulation for Salah following his brilliant hat-trick and stunning overall performance…
Jones labelled Salah’s display “magnificent” and assessed that this was reassuring to see the Egyptian in such red-hot form:
The Egyptian was magnificent, and finished the game clutching the match ball – only the fourth player in club history to do so in the first game of a league season, and the first since John Aldridge in 1988.
He hasn’t looked this sharp for a while. Leeds, and the overworked Stuart Dallas in particular, could not handle him.
The Mirror’s Andy Dunn applauded Salah’s work and noted how having the Egyptian King in this level of form is like head-start on the rest of the Premier League:
But when you have a Salah in your side, you have a head start on the rest.
Salah, though, looks suitably delighted to be steaming forward under Klopp. And he looks as sharp as his summer haircut. Salah turned 28 three months ago and looks every inch a player in his prime.
Reporters were less impressed with Liverpool’s defending and felt Klopp’s ‘attack the title’ vow was taken too literally…
The Independent’s Melissa Reddy wrote exactly that:
Liverpool were perhaps taking Klopp’s assertion that they would attack rather than defend the title too literally.
The BBC’s Phil McNulty thought Liverpool were given a taste of their own medicine as the Reds struggled to cope with Leeds United’s intensity:
Salah was in imperious mood up front but elsewhere Leeds were able to hurry Liverpool out of their stride and run through their midfield in a manner which would have disturbed manager Jurgen Klopp.
Karl Matchett, writing for the Independent, was disappointed to see Liverpool bring the post-title defensive form into the new campaign:
Defensively the Reds were the opposite, with the same individual sloppiness as was seen at the end of last term and an unnecessary amount of open space left for Leeds to counter-attack in.
Jurgen Klopp will know he won’t be able to rely on solely his attack winning matches every week and the run of clean sheets which typified their form last season needs to make a quick return.
Jones pulled no punches as he wrote off Liverpool’s defensive strength as a thing of the past, assessing that the Reds’ back-line is “not what it once was”:
And three times, it must be said, they found that Liverpool’s chin is not what it once was. Jurgen Klopp has promised the Reds will attack their title defence, and on this evidence he was right.
But Matchett took a more measured view as he pointed out how the lack of a proper pre-season, and thus chance to gradually build up to competitive action, had a crucial impact:
Perhaps we saw here an element of a shortened pre-season: teams not yet as solid as they would usually hope to be, not having had as much time to set the defensive lines in pre-season as in a normal year.
Fewer friendlies, fewer training sessions in general and a fragmented week before the season due to players being away on international duty – it all combined, perhaps, to have both these sides somewhat scattered with their defensive lines out of possession.
Several defenders came in for some rare criticism, while the midfield was held accountable too…
McNulty assessed Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold as the main culprits of Liverpool’s sloppy defensive display:
Liverpool were also occasionally shambolic at the back, cut open far too easily with even the normally unflustered Van Dijk knocked out of his stride, committing an awful error for Leeds‘ second goal, while Trent Alexander-Arnold had a game he will want to forget.
The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle singled out Joe Gomez and Van Dijk and pondered whether a lack of competition at centre-back – with only three senior options now at the club – is causing complacency:
Of course, the sloppy performances of Gomez and Van Dijk will lead to questions about the lack of competition at centre-back with Dejan Lovren now departed. Joel Matip came on for the closing minutes, but after him, Klopp has only youngsters and makeshift options.
Three weeks remain in the transfer window. And after this display, the calls for further defensive reinforcements are only going to become louder.
Elsewhere, ESPN’s James Capps was unimpressed with Gini Wijnaldum and rated the Dutchman a 5/10 as he criticised the midfielder’s slack defensive work:
Chugged away but didn’t really offer the Liverpool midfield a great deal, and lost track of Klich as the Pole ghosted into the penalty area to fire home for 3-3.
Meanwhile, Mark Ogden, also for ESPN, felt the defensive uncertainty was not helped by Klopp’s decision to select Naby Keita over Fabinho:
Perhaps the selection of Naby Keita ahead of Fabinho in midfield contributed to the lack of defensive certainty, with Keita unable to provide the industry and awareness of the Brazilian.
Certain journalists provided some alternative thoughts on the opening day win…
The Telegraph’s Sam Wallace praised Liverpool for once again showing the character and belief to find a way to win:
That said, Jurgen Klopp’s team found it from within them to win it – which says much about this side.
Matchett provided interesting analysis on how we may have seen some indications and changes in Liverpool’s midfield pecking order:
As it happened, the Dutchman [Wijnaldum] was the only Reds midfielder to play a full 90 minutes on the opening day, perhaps dampening expectations that he’s set for a quick exit.
Notably, Fabinho was left out having usually been a mainstay of Klopp’s team, while Curtis Jones was given the nod off the bench ahead of options including James Milner and Takumi Minamino. The youngster looks set for a huge season if he continues to improve and Klopp might have given some clues on a newly arranged order of preference in the centre of the park in this match.
Finally, the Guardian’s Andy Hunter expressed regret at the fact that supporters were unable to witness a true Premier League classic in which the Anfield crowd would have been electric:
As on the night of Liverpool’s coronation, and certainly to a greater extent than during the restart period, the absence of a crowd from the opening day at Anfield and from one of the grand fixtures of English football was sorely felt.
This place would have been a cauldron for a meeting of last season’s Premier League and Championship champions.