Liverpool eventually got the job done in style, seeing off Crystal Palace by a deserved three-goal margin with all three goals from their African trio.
Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace
Premier League, Anfield
September 18, 2020
Goals: Mane 43′, Salah 78′, Keita 89′
The rotation of the defence continued which meant Ibrahima Konate was handed his Reds debut.
There are fewer, if any, more imposing centre-back pairings than Konate and Van Dijk, and it looks like we may get to see this pairing at least a handful of times this season.
Konate showed his strength in a shoulder-to-shoulder battle with Wilfried Zaha. The Ivorian tumbled to the ground in the area in a moment which was more good defending than a penalty claim.
It was a similar outcome in a one-on-one battle with Christian Benteke, forcing a corner and giving the Belgian little space to work with.
There were rare uncertain moments, such as one error that saw him rushing back to cover against Zaha, but he showed he’s more than capable of catching quick attackers on the break — something he also demonstrated against Palace’s new signing and man of the moment, Odsonne Edouard, late in the game.
Full back rotation
The rotation of the full-backs revealed a little more of how Jurgen Klopp will make use of his squad this season.
It would have been difficult to have accommodated a new right-back as well as James Milner, and it was always likely the experienced Englishman would get his games at right-back given the midfield options when everyone is fit.
This then means backup is necessary on the left, and Kostas Tsimikas looks to have settled into Klopp’s system as a like-for-like backup for Robertson after a quiet first season with the club.
There was a scare early on when Zaha got ahead of Milner to an awkward ball, but Alisson saved any blushes by turning the ball onto the post.
Milner went on to do well against Zaha, though, using his experience with some textbook defending even with the obvious gulf in speed. On the other side, Tsimikas’ corners set up both goals.
Take a chance
Liverpool created four ‘big chances’, per Opta’s definition of the term, in this game — the Mane and Salah two goals plus the Thiago header and Jota’s miss from five yards out.
They peppered the Palace goal with 25 shots in total with an impressive ten on target.
It could have been even more had they not been wasteful at times in the first half when they failed to take opportunities to create chances. Mane launching the ball straight to Vicente Guaita when Salah would have been through with a more simple, composed choice of pass, for example.
Naby Keita‘s wonderful left-footed strike made up for some of those earlier, easier missed chances though, and Liverpool won the game by the margin their dominance deserved.
Sadio Mane netted his 100th goal for the club, turning in the rebound after Guaita failed to hold a Salah header from Tsimikas’ corner. Mane is now the 18th player to reach 100 goals for Liverpool.
His first-half goal was also his ninth in successive appearances against Palace, and his tenth in total against this opposition.
It hadn’t been his best performance up until that point, but as was the case in the game against Leeds, the Senegalese is regularly in the right place at the right time, and that was the case for this goal.
On heavy rotation
Rotation seems to be a theme at the moment with Klopp using the players available to him in an attempt to manage workloads and prevent the type of injury crisis that occurred last season.
There could be opportunities for some of the players who featured in the UEFA Youth League squad against AC Milan last week.
Liverpool haven’t done well in the domestic cup competitions under Klopp, but these competitions remain a chance for squad players to get more games. They should be motivated enough to take it and help the club progress.