A change of shape and a return to Europe coincided with a more controlled and attack-minded performance from Liverpool, with a 2-0 win over Rangers the outcome.
Liverpool 2-0 Rangers
Anfield, Champions League group stage (3)
Tuesday 4 October 2022
Goals: Alexander-Arnold 7′, Salah pen 53′
Alisson – 7 (out of 10)
It could have been Andy Lonergan in goal first half and we wouldn’t have known any different.
Second half he had to pass out past a press once and claim a cross up high another time. Busy!
Finally in the last five minutes we let our No1 get warm, having to rush off his line twice, making one big save after a corner.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8
An absolute beauty of a free-kick right into the top corner to get the Reds on the right track early on. Some really nice passes down the flank towards Salah and a few dangerous moments in open play from wide.
Wasn’t hugely tested defensively in the first half and perhaps, for confidence’s sake, that’s a good step forward for our right-back.
After the break there were a few more instances of high positioning and whipped crosses, but therefore also more balls in behind – as a team, we coped fine this time.
Joel Matip – 7
A quiet outing for Matip which is fine by us after recent events in the Reds’ defensive collective.
One or two moments of cover needed but mostly this was about solid passing out, staying close to Morelos and ensuring no gaps opened up ahead of the centre-backs. One sloppy clearance wasn’t punished. Headed just wide late on.
Virgil van Dijk – 8
Very much on the front foot, tackling extremely high in the Rangers half to keep the pressure on and prevent them playing over the top.
A glancing header almost doubled our lead but was otherwise a fairly routine night for the No4.
Kostas Tsimikas – 7
Often high and in good positions in the first half but rarely seemed to find the right shape on his cross or cut-back. Wasted a couple of decent overlaps by only finding the Anfield Road End crowd.
A few corners did pose Rangers problems though and he was always on hand to push and press high upfield.
Magic late goalline clearance to preserve the clean sheet.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Much more restrained and better-placed off the ball, compared to our woeful three-man midfield alignment of late.
The nominally more defensive of our double pivot in open play, Henderson was content on this occasion to play it short from deeper areas most of the time, but did also produce two fine through-balls – one lofted, one low – to open up the Rangers defence.
Turned far too easily more than once, which didn’t cause any damage ultimately, so a step forward but still areas to work on.
Thiago Alcantara – 8
Snappy and smooth with most of his passing, a few erratic moments but that was mixed in with the ability to keep our tempo high, so a worthwhile trade-off.
He and Henderson largely worked well in tandem, with the obvious caveat that Liverpool were rarely tested by runners from deep as they have been so often recently. The one occasion it happened second half, Thiago got back to make a great sliding challenge.
Mohamed Salah – 8 – Man of the Match
One of his busiest and best performances, partly due to the fact he was afforded a lot more space than he usually is domestically.
Several times showed brilliant strength and awareness to barge off his markers and thread really fine passes between defenders, usually for Darwin to run onto.
One curling shot was tipped wide but he clipped home his penalty with customary composure.
Diogo Jota – 8
Played just off Nunez and was excellent with it. Always finding spaces between the massed ranks of blue shirts, turning in possession in smart fashion and able to link play.
A couple of very promising combinations with Nunez first half and a thunderous left-footed drive around the hour mark which was somehow tipped over.
Might well have played himself into the team for Arsenal.
Luis Diaz – 8
A decent outlet from wide and a few times probably felt he should have done better when drifting in to shoot right-footed; one high and wide, one low and rolling, easy to save.
Still, that change of pace proved unstoppable for the defenders by fair means as he broke into the box and won a penalty between two of them, before being pole-axed shortly after.
Darwin Nunez – 7
One stinging early first-time effort and then another shot at the back post – both well-saved by the keeper. In the middle of those strikes, Darwin had 30 minutes or so of plenty of effort but little end product, with his channel runs often ending in turning back and an attempted cut-back failing to find a team-mate.
Twice more before the break he was denied – both early shots, on target, well saved – and while he wasn’t refined or successful in his strikes, we can at least point to the positives of good movement behind the defence and instinctive, consistently dangerous hits at goal.
Roberto Firmino (on for Jota, 69′) – 6 – Busy but not much in the way of penalty box action.
Fabinho (on for Henderson, 69′) – 6 – A bit of pressure on our Brazilian at the moment? Needs to raise his game at the weekend, if he’s back in the side.
Harvey Elliott (on for Nunez, 79′) – n/a – The notable thing here is he went right wing in the 4-2-3-1 with Salah pushing centre-forward.
Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold, 90+2′) – n/a – On just for Trent to get the crowd’s applause.
Jurgen Klopp – 8
The boss must have finally had enough – he’s caught up with the fans, if so. Tonight saw a change of shape, several notable switches in personnel and certainly a change of emphasis in terms of build-up play. It was much quicker, much more direct and much more forceful from the Reds right from kick off.
A change in shape was definitely called for to ensure more protection centrally, and it had the desired effect.
The knock-on of the shape change was two really aggressive central attackers, which gave Rangers lots of problems.
There’s a huge call or two ahead to make, not least of which will be who to leave out, but tonight Klopp can certainly say he got it right – there was pace, determination, diligence and a certain amount of creativity in the team, though maybe the minor concern is that we only scored off set plays.
The subs were standard: the seniors who didn’t start came on.
It wasn’t magic, but it worked. Three points, two goals, one clean sheet – absolutely fine to get us back on the right path. Now, do it again.