There was much to love about Liverpool’s 2-0 victory at Inter Milan, as the Reds’ new-found squad depth came to the fore.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side faced a tough assignment away to the reigning Serie A champions, especially with a boisterous San Siro crowd roaring them on.
It means Klopp’s men are now red-hot favourites to reach the Champions League quarter-finals next month, as their superb form continues.
DAVE: All of it was good really. A European away, against a good team who are the reigning champions of Italy, and I think it largely went just as you would want it to.
It was never going to be an easy game – they’re a better side than AC Milan and they were always going to be up for it, as teams tend to be facing us.
But I thought we shaded the first half and they never felt like they would score. The Hakan Calhanoglu shot that hit the bar was the only scare for us, whereas we were creating chaos in their box and just stumbling at the final hurdle.
Stray passes, too many touches, things you knew we could rectify.
JOHN: Liverpool won a knockout tie away to the Italian champions while mostly being in second gear.
Inter were good, but they largely huffed and puffed – no shots on target told a tale – and they flatlined once Liverpool made their replacements and wrestled control back, even though the BT Sport commentators and pundits attempted to paint a different picture, though.
The demise of Van Dijk was greatly exaggerated. Not only did he deal with Lautaro Martinez’s movement and Edin Dzeko’s strength, he handled Denzel Dumfries’ pace.
Every test imaginable he passed with flying colours. A genuine colossus and he had Konate -also superb – for company.
DAVE: Agree with you there, John. Konate and Van Dijk were both excellent and it’s a partnership I’d really like to see get an extended run together, Fab was hoovering everything up in front and they didn’t actually create anything of note.
And Klopp nailed the subs, with the right players coming on at the right time and all of them playing well when they came.
The three he introduced together had a big impact and the combination of the fresh players and Inter tiring after giving it their all lead to us taking control and eventually getting the two goals.
The second goal felt really important for the tie overall. You can’t write them off, but it’s hard to see us losing by two goals at Anfield when Van Dijk is playing the way he played tonight.
JOHN: I also thought it was a great learning experience for Harvey Elliott. He wasn’t fantastic, by any means, especially on occasions when he left his full-back exposed by not shuffling across quick enough on Inter’s long switches of play.
But he’s only 18 and it will stand to him in good stead.
HENRY: As the other lads say, it was positives galore for Liverpool, who are in such a good place at the moment.
They’ve got back into one of those runs where you have so much faith in them getting the job done – at no point did I think we’d lose that game and I always suspected we would nick a goal.
Van Dijk and Konate were magnificent at the back and I think the latter arguably had his best game for Liverpool so far, doing most things to perfection.
Fabinho was immaculate before he was substituted – I couldn’t believe he was brought off, but in hindsight, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita were great when they came on, bringing so much energy in the middle of the park.
It was just a lovely away European night, done in such professional fashion.
DAVE: The standout bad thing of the night was Marcelo Brozovic’s neck tattoo. What on earth was he thinking?
His parents need to sit him down and have a stern chat with him!
As far as the game itself, there wasn’t much that was bad, to be honest.
It was a tense affair first half and maybe some of our players weren’t 100 percent on it, but I didn’t think anyone played poorly.
The overdoing it in the Inter box was frustrating, the inability to connect the midfield and attack at times was a bit annoying but overall I was happy at half-time and thought we managed the game really well.
As I said above, in an away European game against a good team there will always be a spell where they are on top, but I wouldn’t count that as bad. It’s just inevitable.
JOHN: Diogo Jota picked up what looks like an ankle issue, which is a clear negative.
He was largely decent, with his dribbling sharp and some efforts blocked by last-ditch tackles – hopefully, he’ll be fine.
It’s extreme nit-picking in the context of a win, but the Reds’ final ball and decision-making was poor at times, as Dave alludes to.
Likewise, despite a role in the second goal, Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t have a vintage playmaking display, often giving the ball away sloppily, although you’d have to credit Ivan Perisic for marking him so well.
HENRY: It would be wrong to single anything out as bad, in truth, although I suppose I’m capable of being picky!
I thought Elliott struggled a little bit on his Champions League debut, getting caught on the ball and giving it away a couple of times.
But he still did plenty of good and largely looked like he belongs on the big stage already, at such a young age.
As Dave says, that Brozovic tattoo was arguably worthy of prison time!
And the incredible squad depth…
You looked at that bench and felt confident that no matter what situation arose, we had a quality option to come on. That’s how it should be, it’s what a lot of fans have been hungry for.
The chance for Klopp to work with a full deck, to have an even playing field with Guardiola and others.
The subs all did well; Firmino started slowly, but he grew into it and was rewarded with a really good goal.
Keita played very well as he has in most appearances this season, providing something of a link between the midfield and the attack and Diaz is just perpetual motion wide on the left, always available.
His movement is special and you can tell he’s going to be a top player for Liverpool.
And then there’s Henderson. There can be no whitewashing his performances this season. His form has been unacceptably poor. It’s not a one-game thing or a recent thing, it’s been a season-long thing.
But at Inter, hopefully, marked a turning point and showed the most suitable role for him. He played very well when he came on, providing a much-needed energy boost and kept things simple.
The No. 6 position is clearly the best role for him, he’s not as good as Fabinho there but he’s a different option. There are plenty of starts for him in that role.
What we saw from him is hopefully what we’ll see from him the rest of the season, and hopefully the role we’ll see him in as well because it’s one that could extend his career.
JOHN: The depth really is incredible.
The biggest flex of Klopp’s managerial career was bringing on players the ilk of Firmino, Henderson and Diaz. And they were needed.
Their introduction gave Liverpool back control and stopped Inter’s press forcing errors by offering fresh legs and movement to receive passes.
It was especially nice for Henderson, Keita and Firmino – three maligned players – to all do well.
I’m a child of the ’90s, so this squad is, without a shred of exaggeration, comfortably the best in my lifetime.
HENRY: I’m a kid of the ’90s, like John, and this is the kind of squad I could only ever have dreamed of growing up.
So often, we’ve had great starting lineups but then an almighty dropoff in quality – that has finally changed and it can help take Liverpool up another level.
It can’t be over overstated how important it is to have top-quality names on the bench when opposition legs are tiring and it’s precisely why Man City have often had the edge over the Reds.
Over these past few years, I’d never have changed our strongest XI for City’s, but their squad has always been much better.
To have players like Henderson, Keita, Diaz and Firmino to bring on in a big European away game is worth its weight in goal, as it proved.
Curtis Jones hasn’t even made the last two matchday squads through little fault of his own – that’s how many options Klopp has now.
What a time to be a Red!