Jack Hallows reviews the major talking points from Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Two from two – how about that!
It’s the first time that Liverpool have started their Premier League campaign with two wins on the bounce since the 2015/16 season and even in that year, they were less than convincing in a pair of 1-0 victories over Stoke and Bournemouth.
This time, however, they’re sitting pretty with six points out of six, six goals scored and no goals conceded after an opening day blitz of West Ham and a tough trip to Selhurst Park.
The Reds were always going to be made to work hard for their win on Monday night and the hosts didn’t make it easy, denying Jürgen Klopp’s men from having too many clear-cut scoring opportunities throughout.
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However, a James Milner penalty and a trademark Salah to Mané breakaway right at the death was enough to see off the ‘Eagles.’
Talking points? There were plenty.
Step up James ‘Penalty King’ Milner
Liverpool used four different penalty takers last season – Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, James Milner and Philippe Coutinho – and with Sadio Mané, Sheyi Ojo and Fabinho all having taken at least one during pre-season, it was anyone’s guess who was going to be first choice come the start of the season proper.
It seemed perhaps only fitting given his heroics from the spot in the 2016/17 season, that when the time came ol’ reliable James Milner would step up and as he does, coolly slot home from the spot.
The Englishman had actually missed his last two penalties for Liverpool – against Southampton and Maribor – but was not to be denied at Selhurst, sending goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey the wrong way and giving Liverpool a 1-0 lead just before the break.
It was his ninth Premier League goal from the spot for the Reds out of ten attempts and while the no.7 isn’t likely to play every game for the Reds this season, with a record like that it’s hard to see him surrendering spot-kick duties to anyone else while he is on the field.
Long live the king.
You got a corner? We got a counter!
I wrote a piece during the week on how Liverpool have gone from a side who every time they conceded a corner, an opposition goal would shortly follow to a side who every time they concede a corner, looks like scoring a goal of their own and it almost appears prophetic now in hindsight!
With the pairing of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané on the pitch, Liverpool possess enough searing pace to rip apart even the most nimble of defences on the counter-attack – especially when opposition sides commit men forward for set pieces.
In search of a late, late equaliser, Crystal Palace did just that and Liverpool’s rapid duo took full advantage.
The ball fell kindly to Salah and as soon as the Egyptian King took off, you just felt that a second goal was coming.
Passing halfway, Salah prodded the ball into Mané’s path and the Senegalese burst clear, doing brilliantly to control the ball at speed, take it round a clumsy challenge from Wayne Hennessey and prod home into an empty net.
It was Mané’s third goal of the new season already, his third in his last three against Crystal Palace and his 24th Premier League goal for Liverpool.
Alisson gets involved
For those hoping to get a really good look at Liverpool’s shiny new goalkeeper Alisson Becker, our Premier League opener against West Ham would’ve been a slight disappointment.
The big Brazilian was effectively a spectator for much of that match and in truth, it wasn’t much different during the first half at Selhurst.
A long range pile driver that would’ve been in many a ‘goal-of-the-season’ conversations had it gone in from Andros Townsend rattled the cross bar but other than that Palace didn’t really threaten during the first period.
After half time however, Alisson really came into his own.
His distribution was fantastic throughout and his ability to take a touch, get his head up, find a pass and make it with pin-point accuracy helped relieve the pressure on his defence on numerous occasions and the speed and willingness he shows when coming off his line just oozes confidence.
It was however in the shot-stopping department where he really caught the eye, turning a Luka Milivojević free kick that looked destined for the top corner wide 10 minutes into the second half, before getting down brilliantly to deny Benteke another headed goal for his collection.
If a clean sheet had been a formality on his debut, this one was seriously well earned by the former Roma keeper who gave us our first real look at why he cost Liverpool such a large sum.
It probably helped Alisson at least a little to see just how on form the centre back pairing ahead of him looked during the match.
While the full-backs lacked a little both on and off the ball, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk were imperious throughout the 90 minutes, winning an incredible 10 headed duels between them – not bad against Christian Benteke – making five successful tackles and registering a combined pass accuracy of 91%.
While ‘VVD’ and Lovren struck up a solid partnership last season, the partnership between the big Dutchman and his young English counterpart looks as if it could even represent an upgrade.
Gomez possesses recovery pace that Lovren does not, allowing Liverpool to play a higher line with greater insurance that if Alisson can’t get out to sweep, at least one of the centre halves will catch up with an attacker played through on goal.
While the 21-year old is still raw and effectively learning his trade at centre half, Gomez also does not seem to be plagued by the same rash streak that is so often seen in Lovren’s game.
There’s no excessive desire to fly into tackles unnecessarily, potentially leaving huge gaps down the right side of defence and while he’s not as aerially strong as the Croatian, he seems to have struck up an ideal understanding with van Dijk in those situations.
If Gomez keeps this level of performance up, he may just find himself as van Dijk’s long term partner.
Six from six!
Liverpool have now taken six points from the opening two games of a Premier League season for the first time under Jürgen Klopp and while this represents a solid start, the Reds’ coming fixtures are a real chance to keep the momentum flowing.
The Reds face Brighton at home next weekend before going into the international break on the back of a trip to Leicester City who will be without star striker Jamie Vardy.
Both fixtures represent very winnable matches for Klopp’s Reds and it’s imperative that they build on this solid start with another pair of wins.
The German admitted himself in his post-match press conference that while the result favoured his side, the performance was not up to scratch and if he can get his team firing on all cylinders then they should have no problem turning six points in six into 12 points from 12.
Come on you, Redmen!