Liverpool wrapped up their Champions League group stage with a 1-1 draw away to FC Midtjylland, but there was far more to the game than just the couple of goals that did stand.
The Reds took a very early lead through Mo Salah, but a second-half penalty tied matters up before both teams had further strikes ruled out.
Eight minutes of injury time, European debuts, rotation and yet another injury meant it was a game with plenty to digest, despite not an awful lot actually riding on the outcome.
This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) spoke to Guy Drinkel (@guydrinkel) to discuss the best and worst of the match and look ahead to the upcoming games, and who might have forced their way into the discussion.
GUY: Pointless games usually turn out to be horrendously boring and this was! However there were a couple of positives and firstly it was great to get some players who’ve just returned from injury a good chunk of minutes with that huge Spurs game in the near future.
Trent and Naby didn’t particularly play well but we know both have substantially higher levels to their game.
The most obvious positive from the game last night was probably the continued god-like status of Fabinho, and confirming that he is now a world-leading defenssive midfielder as well as a world-class CB.
KARL: Kelleher’s authority in claiming crosses and coming for late, high balls continues to impress me. That’s vital for a ‘keeper in this Liverpool team.
Mo got himself on the scoresheet and set yet another record – we know how much he loves being on the scoresheet and he tends to be a ‘streaky’ forward too, so let’s hope that continues over the festive run.
Also, I thought Klopp’s use of subs was better this time: a mix of the planned, the enforced and the management of minutes. Shame Robbo had to come on but great that Gini didn’t.
GUY: Who’d have thunk it: the bad segment and bringing up VAR, shocking right?
Now, these weren’t David Coote levels of frustrating and the decisions were seemingly correct, my frustration comes from the presentation of it. The commentators were seemingly left confused with little to no communication as the TV-watching crowd waited seemingly hours to see if their goal was onside or offside, and another lifetime passed waiting for the angle to actually show Mane’s handball.
My next negative point may seem harsh with the game being an absolute dead rubber, but…Divock Origi…what’s happened to loveable meme of a player who’d work hard, lack quality but pop up with some ludicrous moments? He seems like an absolute shadow of the player we all use to love.
KARL: My negative on the night is the overall lack of appeal at the end of the group stage in general.
We want to qualify early as a club, but aside from the groups involving PSG and Man United, and Real Madrid and Inter, there was basically nothing to decide at all in the group stage on the final night.
It needs a revamp and that doesn’t just mean bigger groups with more games. Put thought into it!
…and which squad players did enough to impress Klopp and come into the side?
GUY: I think the most obvious one was Leighton Clarkson, he’s obviously still a kid in footballing terms but he looked very assured on the ball, if the physical side develops we may have a potential first-teamer in the making (we’ve heard this before!); we’ve seen players like Billy Gilmour make impacts at other clubs in midfield, maybe Clarkson can be ours?
The only other youngster of note was probably Rhys Williams who we’ve seen throughout the Champions League campaign so far, he did look a lot better alongside Fabinho which you’d expect but he looks a lot more ready for this level than Koumetio who came on at halftime, he may not make the grade at Liverpool as you’d expect us to add players there but he’s certainly made a big leap considering he was at Kidderminster last season.
KARL: I’d say Minamino’s performance was notably improved on his showing against Brighton and Klopp made a point of saying he could feature in the role again in future. It’s not his best, but he has a lot of the traits we seem to value in that third runner in the middle of the team.
The other positive was Tsimikas’ display up to a point; he tired in the second half and we’ll have to hope the knee injury isn’t anything to worry about unduly, but it’s vital Robbo is able to rest and be challenged going forward.
We’ll likely see a steady line-up for a few games now because there’s enough gaps between the days, but even a couple of backups pushing hard can make a big difference throughout December and January.