Liverpool produced a performance befitting of their “Mentality Monsters” status, beating RB Leipzig 2-0 in the Champions League.
RB Leipzig 0-2 Liverpool
Champions League Last-16 First Leg, Puskas Arena (Budapest)
Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Goals: Salah 53′, Mane 58′
Perfect Response from Spirited Reds
It has been a dismal spell for the Reds, having lost their last three matches and drifting completely out of the Premier League title race.
Amid speculation even claiming Jurgen Klopp could quit as Liverpool manager over the weekend, the German produced a memorable press conference on Monday, committing his future and saying his team would respond.
They did exactly that at the Puskas Arena on Tuesday, comprehensively outplaying a Leipzig side sitting second in the Bundesliga, and delivering a great result as the icing on the cake.
Liverpool took control as soon as the game kicked off, bossing possession, producing slick moves and generally silencing any talk of a crisis.
In truth, Liverpool haven’t been playing anywhere near as badly as some of their results have suggested, but getting a win to back up a dominant display was vital.
Don’t question the spirit and quality that exists with Klopp and his players.
The Turk entered a pressurised situation against Leipzig, starting alongside Jordan Henderson again, but was excellent in general.
Kabak showed confidence on the ball in the first half, dummying an opponent and spraying a ball to Andy Robertson, as well as striding out of the defence on one occasion.
While Henderson was caught out a few times, it was hard to think of a genuinely bad moment from Liverpool’s new signing, even if he was a little over-eager in the tackle.
Considering the makeshift defence he was playing in, and the quality of the opponent, the 20-year-old should be proud of his efforts.
Alisson’s Character Shines Through
For much of his time as a Liverpool player, Alisson has been untouchable, proving to be a catalyst for the Reds’ great success under Klopp.
He has outlined his status as arguably the world’s best goalkeeper and made so few errors that you could virtually count them on one hand.
Until the last fortnight, that is.
All eyes were on him on Tuesday, but he displayed huge character, making one superb save to deny Christopher Nkunku after the break and showing immaculate handling throughout.
Whereas past Liverpool ‘keepers reached the point of no return after countless mistakes, this was always going to be nothing more than a rare blip for the Brazilian.
His 50th cleansheet for Liverpool in all competitions.
Sensational Salah Continues Superb Run
One of the rare shining lights during Liverpool’s woeful run has been Salah.
While others around him have floundered, including fellow front-three destroyers Mane and Roberto Firmino, the Egyptian has been as ruthless as ever.
From the off against Leipzig, Salah looked lively, making one darting run in behind the defence, before being thwarted by ex-Reds ‘keeper Peter Gulacsi.
Liverpool’s No.11 got his customary goal to give his side the lead, pouncing on an error before burying a pinpoint finish, bagging that all-important away goal and his seventh in his last seven games.
The goal was Salah’s 24th of an increasingly excellent season and he now has more than he did in the entirety of 2019/20, and in 14 fewer appearances.
This might not be a campaign that has lots of strong Player of the Year contenders, but Salah is certainly staking his claim.
Mental Change of Scenery Helps
Liverpool have looked like a team with the weight of the world on their shoulders lately, with everything seemingly going against them.
This victory felt like a breath of fresh air, though, with a change of scenery and a break from the norm paying dividends.
Back in England, the relentless stream of fixtures, poor results and bad luck has felt like a grind, but they thrived back on the European stage they love.
It might not be the Champions League as we know it, with no fans in stadiums and the match being played at a neutral ground, but the hope is that it kick-starts a major Reds resurgence this season.
There is also no reason why Liverpool can’t win the competition, even though it remains an outside bet given their lack of centre-back options.
The 2-0 win puts them in pole position to reach the quarter-finals, and once the tournament reaches its latter stages, the past has shown that anything can happen.
Where’s the final, I hear you ask? Istanbul…