Shaky Liverpool Sneak to Victory - But Defensive Lapses Must Be Eradicated Quickly

12 September 2020 10:30

As Virgil van Dijk raised his arms and barked desperately for some backup, it became all too apparent that things weren't going to plan for the champions.

The big Dutch defender had already been left in a sticky two-on-one situation (which he'd handled expertly), and was then helpless in stopping Jack Harrison pull a relentless Leeds level. It was then, on 18 minutes, when the Whites broke in behind once more, that the defender had had enough.

Van Dijk took matters into his own hands, crashing home a header to restore Liverpool's advantage on 20 minutes and bring a touch of calm to their harried and frenetic start. Back on track.

Only, this time, that didn't quite happen. The 29-year-old handed Patrick Bamford a second equaliser for the visitors, and even he looked the most out of sorts he's appeared in over a year.

The Premier League champions got the job done - just about - thanks to two penalties and a Mohamed Salah hat-trick in a 4-3 win. But the three points will be secondary to Jurgen Klopp. His side had just been rocked, bullied and frightened by the newest addition to the top-flight.

Admittedly, Marcelo Bielsa and his troops are no ordinary Championship side, but even so, it was an extremely worrying evening for the best team in the country.

Defensively, Liverpool were simply atrocious.

Leeds were able to take full advantage of the spaces in the wide areas left by the Reds' marauding full-backs, hitting balls over the top time and time again, punishing Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson for their adventurous nature.

They regularly looked to exploit the Reds' high line - and succeeded. Although it was a solid and well thought out plan by Bielsa, Liverpool fans will be incredibly concerned by the lack of reaction and response to this particular system. Klopp's men did sink deeper in the second half, trying to spring more counter-attacks of their own, although this came at a point when they seemingly had control of the match.

But camping deeper didn't help either, as Leeds were able to play through Klopp's midfield, and Mateusz Klich's lovely strike looked to have bagged a shock point for the visitors with a brilliantly engineered goal. Ultimately, a silly, daft, clumsy, ridiculous tackle at a clutch moment was the difference between these two sides.

Salah was given the opportunity to win the game late on, and he took it clinically. Phew. For supporters of both clubs, and neutrals in general, it was a game that will live long in the memory. A proper Premier League classic. Klopp, on the other hand, will be far less cheerful about the circumstances of the victory.

There's no getting away from it - Liverpool were rattled. Rarely had a team come to Anfield and shown such disregard for records, statistics and status, and their determination to match the Reds pound for pound caught the hosts off-guard.

The German coach looked furious. It was a throwback to Klopp's Liverpool of old, always intent on outscoring an opponent, even if they had to go into double digits to do so. But they eventually discovered that football is much easier if you don't let your rival have so many chances to score, and the points started flowing.

That ethos may have been temporarily misplaced since clinching the long-awaited Premier League trophy, and many supporters are concerned by the end of season form, combined with the lack of additions and movement in the transfer market.

It's difficult to draw many conclusions from one single, isolated game of football, but what we can say, is that Liverpool are still a way off their imperious performances of 12 months prior. The once solid defence contains more holes than a block of Swiss cheese, the midfield is slightly off the pace, and the forwards - well, they didn't do too badly, did they?

So, Liverpool fans, enjoy the result and the football's return, and don't get too bogged down by the manner of the win. But for the players, the hard work has only just begun.

Defending a title is not as easy as it should be.

Source: 90min