Liverpool picked up another Europa League win which, combined with a draw elsewhere, means the Reds are guaranteed to win their group.
Liverpool 4-0 LASK
Europa League (5), Anfield
November 30, 2023
Goals: Diaz 12′, Gakpo 15′ 90′, Salah pen 50′
Clean sheet Caoimh
He has been a very good No.2 for the Reds over the past few seasons but his form this campaign had been fairly poor, albeit with the obvious caveat of games coming few and far between.
Tonight, then, was an important opportunity to get his eye in and build his rhythm, ahead of three league games and the last group game in Europe – a five-match run which needs to be another proving ground for him, showing he can have the consistency and quality required at the top.
Despite LASK creating plenty of openings, it’s fair to say Kelleher wasn’t massively tested by the finishing, with his first real intervention coming past the hour mark as he slid out to close down a forward.
Another decent block came in the final 15 minutes, beaten away at the near post, with maybe his finest intervention being a scoop-away from a dangerous free-kick in the final minutes of the game.
Elsewhere, his footwork was assured and his starting position positive; there are bigger direct tests ahead no doubt, but a first clean sheet of the season for him is still a good starting point.
Elliott the standout, trio take their chance
Best player on the night? Probably Harvey Elliott, who was industrious, creative, selfless and non-stop with his overlaps, recovery runs and intent to push the team forward.
From the right side of midfield and later in the front line, Elliott was impressive with both pressing work and passing, spotting spaces between the lines and executing the ball required.
For the former, it’s far from the first time he has impressed, with some good performances at right-back and another assist here for the opener.
Endo, on the other hand, has been up-and-down this term so it was good to see him be progressive on the ball, strong in the challenge and consistent throughout the 90.
Dutch duo need to do more though
He’s had a strong opening to his Anfield career, but this was an occasion where Ryan Gravenberch probably showed why he’s not quite yet a starter.
The midfielder certainly worked plenty and kept trying to make things happen, but much of his creative work and cutest technical attempts to keep the Reds rolling simply didn’t come off. An off-night, for the most part.
Cody Gakpo, on the other hand, scored two, won a penalty and grew into the match the longer it went on. On the face of it, that’s excellent – but doesn’t tell the whole story.
By the time we hit the hour mark he was certainly coming into his stride, turning quicker and being more aggressive with his passing and his dribbling.
One lashed shot just after he was taken down by the ‘keeper was the classic type of approach we want to see from him: good turn, direct run into space and an effort at goal from range.
But before that he was on the periphery and sloppy on the ball, twice missing out on easy tap-ins due to simply not continuing his run or following the natural role of a cross.
Too many times, good positions or shooting chances were wasted. With Diogo Jota absent, Gakpo needs to show more of his final-third quality, more often, to become a first-choice player for Jurgen Klopp again – just like his second goal, lashed in for 4-0.
Great productivity tonight, but against better opponents we need the all-round package he’s capable of.
Planned subs and an intensive training session
It’s fair to say that even though LASK created a good few chances, Liverpool always had way too much quality and looked like they could step it up again whenever needed.
As such, it’s no great surprise to see that there were some clearly planned changes by the boss, utilising the squad on the one hand but also keeping some of the key starters fully tuned in and getting a midweek run-out.
Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz both played around 55 minutes before being replaced, the wide forwards splitting game time – no doubt the coaches feeling extra protection is needed there with Jota injured.
Top spot and three in a row
The Reds remain top of their Europa League group and now we’ll be staying there for sure – Toulouse drew 0-0 with Union, meaning nobody can catch us.
There are two knock-on effects of that, one of which is vital: we can rest players against Union as we want now, and that fixture comes just three days before Liverpool host Manchester United.
Secondly and more long-term, it means we skip the playoff and go straight to the last 16, saving two more matches in the legs of the players next year.
Before that though, it’s a run of three Premier League games in the space of six days to get through – the relentlessness we became famed for in our title-challenging seasons has to be on show from here.
Still, we’re in great form and scoring at will right now and the squad players are by and large proving themselves able stand-ins when required.
Onwards, Reds, towards a very merry Christmas.