Liverpool got their Champions League campaign back on track after narrowly dispatching RB Salzburg 4-3 in a tense, edgy affair that marked Anfield’s 100th European match.
Sadio Mané and Andrew Robertson got a goal each, with Mohamed Salah registering a brace to confirm the three points for Liverpool.
With a three-goal lead after half-an-hour, it should have been a simple task. However, a mix of relentless energy from the visitors and inept defending among the home contingent allowed the Austrians back into the game, with the Egyptian’s second proving to be the winner.
Jürgen Klopp made only one change from the side that beat Sheffield United at the weekend. Joe Gomez replaced Joël Matip after the Cameroonian picked up in injury at Bramall Lane. Georginio Wijnaldum also registered his 150th game for the Reds.
The game got off to a very open start with both sides registering attempts on goal within the opening minutes. The best chance however fell to birthday boy Roberto Firmino, who failed to make contact with an inch perfect ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold and allowed Salzburg ‘keeper Cican Stankovic to collect easily.
The missed opportunity however did not faze the Reds as Mané had the ball in the back of the net in the ninth minute. Robertson found the Senegalese attacker down the left wing as Salzburg closed in.
A quick burst of pace by Mané around Rasmus Kristensen saw the winger burst towards the penalty area before passing to Firmino. Brazilian brilliance followed as Firmino expertly fed the No.10, who dispatched the ball calmly into the bottom right corner.
Liverpool dominated the game following the opener and had to wait less than 20 mins to grab a second — from the unlikeliest of sources. Robertson drove down the middle of the pitch before passing to Salah and continuing his run. The Egyptian played the ball to his captain who then played it wide to Alexander-Arnold.
The English right back drilled the ball into the box and found his fellow full back at the near post as Robertson opened up his body and stroked the pall into the back of the net. Liverpool two goals to the good after 25 minutes. Salzburg applied a bit more pressure to the Reds following the second goal, however in the 36th minute Salah struck to make it three.
Brilliant wing play by Mané saw the Senegalese wide-man cross it into Firmino. The Brazilian forced a save from Stankovic who palmed his header away from goal but not away from danger. The loose ball fell straight to Salah who easily dispatched the empty net. 3-0 Liverpool.
Despite going 3-0 down, Salzburg kept their heads up and got a goal back quickly through striker Hwan Hee-chan. Jordan Henderson was robbed in possession with Salzburg quickly pressing as Liverpool were in transition. Enock Mwepu fed Hee-Chan who drove into the penalty area before skillfully skipping past Virgil van Dijk and smashing the ball beyond Adrián.
The 23-year-old South Korean is the first opposition player to score at Anfield in the Champions League since Kylian Mbappé in September 2018 and his goal saw the sides go into the break with the score at 3-1. Both teams came out for the second half unchanged and an early moment of madness from Adrián almost saw the visitors draw another goal back.
The Spanish goalkeeper tried to be too cheeky in passing the ball past Salzburg’s pressing attack and watched on in relief as the ball cannoned off Patson Daka and went out for a goal kick.
Salzburg continued to press Liverpool high and got a second goal back in the 55th minute.A quick free kick to Hee-Chan caught Liverpool napping as the South Korean advanced down the wing before crossing the ball into the Liverpool penalty area. Takumi Minamino burst into the box unmarked and connected with a volley that rifled into Adrian’s net. 3-2.
The Reds were clearly rattled as Salzburg pushed for a third, with the Austrian champions only having to wait a handful of minutes before they had the score level. Minamino was at the heart of the action yet again as he found room down Liverpool right hand side and drilled a low ball across the face of goal.
Adrián was stranded as Erling Håland, who had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes, tapped the ball into the net with his first touch of the game. The goal is the Norwegians 18th this season. With 30 minutes to go the score was 3-3.
Fortunately for Liverpool the equaliser forced them to get their act together and they took the lead once again in the 69th minute. Another bit of brilliance by Firmino who flicks the ball through to Salah who found himself one-on-one with Stankovic.
The Egyptian, who wasted a couple chances in the first half, calmly lifted the ball over the keeper to add to his tally. Two goals for Salah. 4-3.
Despite taking the lead Liverpool still didn’t look comfortable as their nervous second half performance continued into the final 10 minutes.
They saw it through, however, and came away with a vital three points from a match against a team who are quite clearly not just here to make up the numbers.