Liverpool’s attackers ran riot against Atalanta in a 5-0 win at the Gewiss Stadium.
Diogo Jota will rightly dominate the headlines following his first career hat-trick at Liverpool, while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane also chipped in with the goals to play their part.
Even Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Curtis Jones had a big impact in midfield, while substitutes James Milner and Kostas Tsimikas also quietly made a difference off the bench.
But the players you won’t hear much about are the defenders and the goalkeeper, and that’s a crying shame considering the scrutiny and the media agenda the team have had to combat in recent weeks.
Joe Gomez and Rhys Williams imperious
Jurgen Klopp decided to pair Joe Gomez and Rhys Williams together against Atalanta in what was the manager’s 36th central defensive partnership since he took charge of the Reds in October 2015.
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Not only was there the risk of a new partnership going pear shape but it was also 19-year-old Williams’ Champions League debut, which against one of Europe’s most free-flowing attacking outlets is quite the baptism of fire.
With Nat Phillips ineligible for selection having not been included in the manager’s CL squad, Williams was Klopp’s most trusted option to step up in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho. Joel Matip did return to the bench although was an unused substitute.
Both Gomez and Williams vindicated the manager’s faith, and showed Liverpool are firmly on track to silencing the doubters who predicted the Reds to totally derail in the absence of Van Dijk.
Klopp had told previously told his players not to give the outside world reasons to say they’re toast without the irreplaceable Dutchman. In the five games that have followed in his absence: five wins, two goals let in. Without Matip and Thiago Alcantara too, plus having lost Fabinho and needing to turn to teenagers.
It is some testament to the mentality Klopp has successfully installed into all areas of the club and demonstrates how, despite what initially seemed as a number of catastrophic injuries, Liverpool are still the team to beat both domestically and in Europe.
Gomez has been particularly outstanding in the absence of his ‘big brother’ Virgil, and he has stepped up to the task immeasurably marshalling orders to his teammates in an attempt to fill the inevitable gargantuan void that comes without the presence of Liverpool’s defensive lynchpin.
This was good to see, and even with Matip back in the team, Williams has more than showcased he is more than worthy for being considered against Manchester City.
Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold strong
With so many defensive casualties in recent weeks, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have had to remain as durable as for Klopp. Both players have been absolutely outstanding to ensure Liverpool remain as relentless as ever despite the number of big-name players absent.
Robertson touched the ball more times than any other player on the pitch (86) – excluding Curtis Jones.
He also made four interceptions, two clearences and won two aerial duels – the joint-highest from any Liverpool player.
Alexander-Arnold was his usual influential self, assisting the all-important opening goal and well as touching the ball 84 times.
He also made more cross (5) than any other player on the pitch.
You expect him to get these right at this point, and he gets them spot on.
Alisson Becker stepped up too
Atalanta did not oppose the threat they would have liked too, but when they did, Alisson Becker was equal to it.
He made one point-blank save to deny Duván Zapata and preserve the all-important clean sheet – Liverpool’s third consecutive in Europe.
That’s now just two goals conceded in Liverpool’s previous four matches since he returned to the team, one was a penalty at home to Sheffield United and the other a misfortunate misreading against West Ham.
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