Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United: Winners and losers as fragile Reds scrape past valiant Leeds

Sensational Salah saved Liverpool in an entertaining and exhausting Premier League season opener. OLIVER LAWRENSON picks out the Reds’ winners and losers from the game.

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Jürgen Klopp will be looking for a response from his Liverpool players in their next game after a seriously sub-par performance against Premier League new boys, Leeds United. An inept defensive performance will have shocked many Reds fans as it nearly cost them all three points on Saturday evening. 

After winning the Premier League title at a canter last season, Klopp was questioned how his side would try and defend the trophy this time round. His response: “We will not defend the title; we will attack the next one”. This quote rang very true against the side from Yorkshire as Liverpool attacked, whilst completely forgetting how to defend their own goal. 

The German made three changes from the side who lost to Arsenal in the Community Shield just under two weeks ago. James Milner, Fabinho and Neco Williams all fall to the bench with fit again Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold joining Naby Keïta in the starting eleven. 


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Here are the winners and losers from the game:

Winners

Mohamed Salah

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The Egyptian was at his sumptuous best as he carried Liverpool towards victory on Saturday evening. The forward was at his enigmatic best causing considerable problems for Stuart Dallas down the left-hand side. The Northern Ireland international was seen asking for back up from Jack Harrison on several occasions during the 90 minutes, struggling with the consistent pace and intricate play from the winger. 

His ability to weave between the lines and manipulate the Leeds defence was extraordinary and he was always on hand to help out his struggling companions in attack or defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold was extremely grateful on several occasions as the former Roma man tracked back to help with the threat of the formerly mentioned Harrison. 

His overall display exuded composure and was topped with a hat-trick that he richly deserved. The two penalties were struck with confidence and conviction with Meslier having no chance with either. His second goal was the cherry on the cake and simply world class. The instinctive nature in which he controlled the ball and dispatched it into the top right corner was simply breath-taking. 

His opening day feast means a fourth consecutive opening day goal for the 28-year-old, with any talk of him being a one season wonder now surely banished. He will once again be key to Liverpool’s trophy aspirations for the season and if he performs anywhere near this level, it could be another memorable season for the Egyptian king. 

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Losers

Trent Alexander-Arnold

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The PFA Young Player of the Season had an evening to forget after an uncomfortable 90 minutes in which he showed a lack of match sharpness, fitness, attacking intent and defensive ability. It might have come as a shock to many as the 21-year-olds display was one we had never seen before. Everything about his game was off with a distinct inability to do anything correct on the day. 

The England international seriously struggled with the dynamic Harrison all game, with Salah having to track back and relieve the pressure on Alexander-Arnold on several occasions. His inability to defend meant he had no confidence to go the other way without worrying he could be caught out in his defensive duties. 

This all stemmed from the first goal in which Harrison beat the scouser to a ball over the top. After winning the ball, the winger produced some amazing skill and awareness by taking it around the right back and firing into the near post past Alisson. This was clearly just a sign for things to come for the youngster. 

After an injury that had kept him out of the Community Shield fixture a couple of weeks prior, this performance could be put down to rustiness. However, with the high standards that the Alexander-Arnold has set himself over the last couple of seasons, coupled with the quest for more major honours, he will be looking to right the wrongs immediately and bounce back with the game at Stamford Bridge next week.

Virgil van Dijk

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The ever-dependable rock at the back for the Reds had a game that challenged this status at the start of the new season. Former Liverpool legend Graeme Souness described his performance as “a stinker” whilst fellow club hero Jamie Carragher described a moment in play as “arrogant”. Neither statement you could really argue with after the final whistle. 

The Oranje captain’s evening started in a positive vain, taking control of Bamford, bullying and stripping the ball from the Leeds man whenever he had possession. One of his decisive moments within the game came after 20 minutes. From a corner he shrugged off the challenge of Leeds debutant Robin Koch – who earlier had conceded the first penalty – to bury a free header into the opposing goal. 

From this moment his afternoon turned sour. Firstly, after misjudging a flighted ball over the top, he gifted the ball to Bamford who proceeded to lift the ball over the helpless Alisson and bring the side from Yorkshire level. His second glaring error was in his positional awareness as he was dragged out of the backline for the third Leeds strike. After filtering across to the left-hand side, the 29-year-old advanced to the ball when there was no need to. Hélder Costa took full advantage as he played the ball into a free Mateusz Klich, who dispatched home emphatically to the delight of the Bielsa and co. 

These errors were accompanied by uncharacteristic losses of possession and concentration, as the Liverpool backline looked extremely vulnerable to every Leeds attack. Van Dijk’s defensive partner Joe Gomez didn’t fare much better, especially in the first half, against the opposition pressure losing possession several times himself. 

It was a poor defensive showing all round from the Reds. Van Dijk’s personal display was one of only a couple of bad games the former Southampton man has had since his move to Merseyside. Like Trent, the Dutchman will be looking for an immediate response from himself and the team when they go to the capital in a weeks’ time.


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