A long overdue battle of iconic teams finally reignited its rivalry yesterday at Anfield. Fallen giants of the game Leeds Utd made their comeback to the Premier League after sweeping up the Championship title. Their opponents couldn’t be tougher with Champions Liverpool starting their title defence.
The talk was all about the new manager in the block, none other than Marcelo Alberto Bielsa. The no nonsense and seemingly non English speaking Argentinian declared he would never move from the style he was accustomed to. Unrelenting. Unapologetic. Impressive.
For the neutral this was the game to watch. Both teams came out of the blocks at break neck speed. Liverpool took possession early and set a furious press on the Leeds back line. If anyone thought the Yorkshire men would wilt under this level of attack they were wrong. But while both teams pressed superbly it wasn’t a day for defenders as Leeds gave up an early goal with a handball in the box. Penalty convered by Mo Salah, routine restored.
Leeds showed why they will cause problems for many teams this year as they attack with every move. A diagonal ball to Jack Harrison split the Liverpool defence with Trent Alexander Arnold slow to react. Harrison showed his calmness with a quick change of direction and a cool finish.
Liverpool recovered quickly and restored the lead with a bullet header from a corner from Virgil Van Dijk. But the mistakes were not going away and within minutes another long ball over the top was feathered by the Dutch defender instead of cleared. Bamford was on it and slotted home to open his Premier League account in style.
Leeds hardly had time to enjoy their goal when once again they failed to clear their lines. Mo Salah, the sharpest player on the field, smashed a volley into the roof of the net from just inside the box.
The second half would be no different with Liverpool squandering a few chances mainly falling to Firmino. Leeds did not have that issue and another sweeping move on the flank this time by Helder Costa seen a cross met by Klich. He controlled the ball with one touch and dispatched with ease. With Jurgen Klopp now baying for blood on the sideline it was Andy Robertson that felt the brunt of his anger. The Scotsman was having serious problems with the pacy Costa on his flank.
There had to be a winner
With games like this there was never going to be a stalemate. Both teams were up for a finale finish. Caution to defence was not a concern and both teams must be credited for their attitude. If Leeds had pulled this off it would be the story of the weekend. But football doesn’t care about sentiment.
A moment of madness from record signing Rodrigo Moreno in his own box seen Fabinho go to ground after an awkward challenge. These are the moments when it is pivotal to have a penalty taker with nerves of steel. Salah dually stepped up and crashed home to seal a win for the reds.
What did we learn?
It’s important to note that Liverpool took on Norwich this time last year and the Canaries gave them a run for their money. Leeds will take confidence knowing that they can play in the big league against quality players.
Leeds look like a team with goals in them. This is vital as any of the newly promoted and relegation candidates usually struggle to score. They will though have to tighten up defencively. I’m not worried about the chances Liverpool created as such but they are very open to the counter attack. More so to leave Virgil Van Dijk free from a corner more than once!
Liverpool will not be concerned as they won the game. But, Key players are clearly not match fit in Henderson and Trent. Fabinho was in the most interesting omission as he’s started most pre season games. Klopp is giving his team some tough love in his selections. I’d love to be a fly on the wall however when he asked Van Dijk what he was at for his mistake.
Both teams will now look to press on and with another week or two under their belts I’d expect more wins than losses on the horizon.